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CONCORD, N.C. – For Alex Bowman, Thursday’s announcement was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

“I was always a Jeff Gordon fan, so Hendrick Motorsports was always a place I wanted to be growing up,” Bowman said. “Just kind of the way my career shook out, I never thought I was going to get a chance.”

But he did get the chance. First, for 10 races as a fill-in driver for the No. 88 team in 2016 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. missed time due to a concussion.

Then, on Thursday, he was named the full-time driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet beginning in 2018.

“To be here is kind of, it’s a shock, so every time I talk to (Hendrick Motorsports owner) Mr. (Rick) Hendrick it’s like, ‘Wow, you’re talking to Mr. Hendrick and you’re driving for Hendrick Motorsports,’” Bowman smiled. “He’s been a huge help just with advice and any time I get to talk to him it’s an awesome feeling.”

This is a dream come true! #NASCAR

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More than just the opportunity to climb behind the wheel, Bowman’s new ride will come with a 19-race majority sponsorship from Nationwide, including the season-opening Daytona 500. In addition to Nationwide’s one-year extension with Hendrick Motorsports, Axalta Coating Systems will increase its number of races featured as the primary sponsor of the No. 88 team, bringing its total to 15 Cup races with Bowman in 2018.

The driver said that the support from the two partners means the world to him.

“I’m just very thankful for them to take a chance on me and to have their continued support,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s really cool to see everything that Nationwide does. I got to go up to the Children’s Hospital a couple weeks ago and see everything they do. It’s such a great company to get to represent, and the same with Axalta. Axalta is something that I can really relate to growing up in the auto body industry, and it’s really cool to be a part of two really great brands.”

Now, Bowman just wants to get to work.

“I’m just really excited to get going,” he said. “It’s going to seem like forever until we get to the racetrack. I’m just so thankful and appreciative to be here.”