CONCORD, N.C. -- It was a season of firsts for Alex Bowman as he substituted for Dale Earnhardt Jr., piloting the No. 88 Chevrolet SS for 10 races in 2016.
Together with crew chief Greg Ives and the No. 88 team, Bowman earned his first three career top-10s at Chicago, Kansas and Phoenix.
Bowman also won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole position at Phoenix International Raceway in November, going on to take the checkered flag in sixth after leading 194 laps.
It was his performance at Phoenix and throughout his time in the No. 88 Chevy that led Earnhardt to make the decision to put Bowman in the car one more time: at the 2017 Clash at Daytona.
"Wow," Ives said of Bowman's upcoming opportunity. "What an honor for Dale Jr. to have such a respect for Alex Bowman and what he was able to do with the No. 88 team, especially getting that pole at Phoenix and not only getting the pole – those are starting spots – but to also do what he did in the race. I feel like Dale looked at that weekend and thought this kid deserved the opportunity to get one more race in and deserved that opportunity in The Clash."
Drivers eligible to compete in the 75-lap race include 2016 pole award winners, former Clash race winners, former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2016 and drivers who qualified for the 2016 Chase.
Earnhardt qualified due to his 2008 victory in The Clash, while Bowman earned his starting position with his Phoenix pole.
Ives said he is "definitely" looking forward to working with Bowman again at Daytona and that the opportunity reflects the respect Earnhardt has for the 23-year-old driver.
"What an honor it is for Alex to be in that situation and to have Dale think that highly of him and be willing to give that up," Ives said.
While missing 18 races during the 2016 season was due to an injury and outside of Earnhardt's control, Ives said the decision to put Bowman in the car one more time was completely Earnhardt's choice.
"It was difficult for him to make that decision and we just have to really commend Dale for doing that for Alex," Ives said. "It really comes down to Dale as a person -- how down-to-earth he is, how much he respects the sport and also respects the drivers.”