CONCORD, N.C. -- Alex Bowman was treated to a surprise when he was gifted the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE that he took to victory lane at Chicagoland Speedway two seasons ago.
Bowman met up with crew chief Greg Ives, who informed him that team owner Rick Hendrick was giving the car to the 27-year-old driver as a memento of his first NASCAR Cup Series win in June 2019.
“That was just a really special day,” Bowman said. “We knew we were really good but we really to win that race the way we did. We weren’t the best car at the end and really had to fight for it. It’s really special, for sure."
Bowman said he had an inkling he would be presented with the car but he didn’t know any details. He joked he would have begged to keep the Axalta Chevrolet since it's a sentimental part of his career. Ives said it was a work in progress to get the car back to Bowman since his win a year and a half ago.
“I wanted to continue to race it because it was such a great car for us,” Ives said. “Alex obviously has that request of, ‘Hey, if I ever win do I get the car?’ I know that was between Mr. Hendrick, himself and myself, as well. We had that car sitting, kind of wondering what it was going to do after Homestead in 2019.
“We retired the car and, as we went through all last year, we just continually accrued the parts to put it back together.”
By seeing the car restored, Ives is reminded of how far Bowman has come in his Cup career. He saw Bowman building momentum and placing better in races during the 2019 season, which bolstered his assertiveness behind the wheel.
“We knew we had a lot of speed (and) Alex was building confidence,” Ives said. “That’s the number one goal when (it comes) down to winning races - it's the confidence in your driver to say, ‘Hey, give me the car, give me the wheel, give me the pit stops and give me opportunity to win.’ He went out there and did that, and that’s what I see when I see the car.”
The Chevrolet also is a testament to how much the relationship between Bowman and Ives has grown. The duo have been together full time since 2018, and Bowman said it’s been special working with Ives throughout his Hendrick Motorsports career. Seeing the No. 88 Chevrolet from Chicagoland is a reminder on how far the driver and crew chief have come.
“It’s neat to see it again," Bowman said. "Obviously, we raced it quite a bit that year and had a lot of success with this car. It's cool to see it put back together how it was. (I’m) just super appreciative of it. It’s really neat.”