At long last, we now know who will be replacing seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson in the famed No. 48 Chevrolet next season. While many speculated a driver from outside the organization would fill the seat, the new 48 driver comes from inside the walls of Hendrick Motorsports in Alex Bowman.
Bowman is no stranger to filling in legendary shoes as he was tasked with replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88, which he's currently driving as he competes in the NASCAR playoffs after advancing to the Round of 12. Bowman will continue to be paired with crew chief Greg Ives as he takes on Johnson's primary sponsor Ally.
"I've worked my entire life to be in a situation like this," Bowman said in a release from Hendrick Motorsports. "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."
Johnson expressed his support on social media, saying that the No. 48 is in great hands. The two are friends from their time working together at Hendrick Motorsports and often take jabs at each other on social media with the 27-year-old Bowman referring to the 45-year-old Johnson as "dad".
"I can't put my respect for Jimmie into words," Bowman continued. "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."
"We have tremendous faith in this team," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, in a release. "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."
Team Hendrick plans to transition Bowman into the No. 48 after the playoffs end in November and will announce plans for the No. 88 team at a later date. It is currently unclear whether Hendrick will run four cars and if it does whether it will renumber, which it has done in the past.
Potential candidates to fill a fourth Hendrick car could include Kyle Larson, who penned an essay earlier this week expressing his desire to return to NASCAR after being suspended for using a racial slur in an iRacing event. Another option is Erik Jones, who told CBS Sports that he hopes to have an announcement on his next team within the next two weeks.
"I think there are definitely some teams that I feel like are pretty good quality that would be able to win races with the right pieces in place,' said Jones. 'So I feel confident that I can get in an opportunity next year where there will be chances to win races during the season. So I feel good about that. I don't think it's a situation where it's gonna be a total struggle for me as a driver so that's encouraging. You always want to be in a situation where you feel like you can go win so that's been encouraging for me over the last couple of weeks."