Passing the torch: Alex Bowman to drive No. 48 car in 2021

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Car owner Rick Hendrick has tabbed Alex Bowman to replace Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 car next season, the team announced Tuesday.

The 27-year-old Bowman is in his third full season at Hendrick Motorsports. He has two career victories, including a win at Auto Club Speedway in March. Bowman will remain with crew chief Greg Ives. 

“We have tremendous faith in this team,” Hendrick said in a statement from the team. “Every season, Alex gets better. Not only do we see it in the statistics, but his confidence and leadership have truly blossomed. Today he’s a proven winner and playoff contender, and his best years are ahead. Greg has won championships and races, and he brings the No. 48 pedigree that’s invaluable. When you add in the amazing enthusiasm and support from Ally, it’s quite a combination. Their partnership makes it all possible, and we look forward to celebrating many successes together in the future.”

Bowman heads into Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) seventh in the standings. He is 22 points ahead of Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon, the first drivers outside a transfer spot to the Round of 8.

Johnson has raced the No. 48 since making his Cup debut in Oct. 2001 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Johnson has made 681 starts. The only start he’s missed in the No. 48 car since his debut was at Indianapolis in July when he was out after testing positive for COVID-19.

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it will announce plans on the No. 88 team at a later date. Bowman has driven for that team in his three full-time seasons with Hendrick. Bowman joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2016, driving 10 races in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was recovering from a concussion that season.

Tuesday’s announcement means Bowman will have taken over the rides for Earnhardt and Johnson immediately after their departures.

“I’ve worked my entire life to be in a situation like this,” Bowman said in a statement from the team. “The opportunity to drive a legendary car like the ‘48’ with incredible support from Ally, it truly can’t get any better. I’m excited to build on my relationship with Greg, who is a championship-caliber crew chief and knows first-hand what the No. 48 is all about. The pieces are in place, and I’m grateful to Mr. Hendrick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and Ally. We’re ready to do it right.

“I can’t put my respect for Jimmie into words. To me, the No. 48 team’s legacy is about winning, but also how you go about your business. It’s leadership, confidence, work ethic, being a professional and holding yourself to a higher standard. No one will ever be Jimmie, and he’s given us a championship blueprint to follow.”