CONCORD, N.C. – With the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series season in the rear-view mirror, all eyes are now on a fresh start in the 2019 campaign.

For Alex Bowman, 2018 was a banner year as he took the wheel of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 full-time for Hendrick Motorsports.

“2018 had its fair share of ups and downs,” Bowman said. “Starting off the year winning the pole for the Daytona 500 was really special. Coming off the couch and making the playoffs was really cool. We wanted a lot more and expected a lot more throughout the year. We fell short of our expectations a little bit and hopefully we’ll be better in 2019.”

Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights from Bowman’s 2018 season.

DAYTONA 500 POLE

Bowman’s 2018 campaign started with a bang as he became the third-youngest Daytona 500 pole-winner in NASCAR Cup Series history.

He earned the top starting spot for “The Great American Race” with a lap time of 46.002 – 0.13 seconds faster than the outside pole sitter.

It was Bowman’s second career pole.

The achievement marked Hendrick Motorsports’ 12th Daytona 500 pole – the most all-time. The organization has won 20 percent of the Daytona 500 poles all-time, and won the pole in 34 percent of the Daytona 500s in which the organization has competed.

CAREER YEAR

Bowman put together his best NASCAR Cup Series season to-date in 2018, perhaps best demonstrated by his results all across the schedule.

The driver earned career-best finishes at 18 different venues in the 2018 season.

He set or tied career marks at Atlanta, Auto Club Speedway, Bristol, Charlotte, the Charlotte “roval” road course, Chicagoland, Darlington, Daytona, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Martinsville, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pocono, Richmond, Sonoma, Talladega and Watkins Glen.

Ten of those results were top-10 finishes, part of a season in which he scored 11 top-10s after amassing three previously in his career.

INTO THE TOP FIVE

In 2018, Bowman earned the first three top-five finishes of his Cup Series career.

His best career finish was sixth prior to 2018.

The first top-five came on April 16 at Bristol Motor Speedway, when he started eighth and took the checkered flag fifth.

He went on to finish third at Pocono in July – his new career best finish – and fourth in the Bank of America ROVAL 400 in September.

PLAYOFF CONTENDER

Another mark of Bowman’s career year was the fact that he clinched a spot in the playoffs for the very first time.

Not only that, but he advanced to the Round of 12 in the playoffs thanks to a strong first round that was capped by his fourth-place result at the Charlotte road course.

Bowman became the eighth different driver that Hendrick Motorsports has taken to the playoffs, the most of all organizations in Cup Series history. He joins Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin and Kyle Busch on the list.