CONCORD, N.C. -- Although his duties substituing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. have been fulfilled, come February, Alex Bowman will be back in the seat of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS in Daytona.
The 23-year-old driver will once again pilot Earnhardt's Chevy in the Feb. 18 season-opening, non-points The Clash at Daytona International Speedway.
Bowman qualified for the event as a pole position winner from the 2016 season, punching his ticket with a pole at Phoenix International Raceway in November.
Earnhardt is also eligible to compete in The Clash as a result of winning the race back in 2008 but said he feels Bowman's recent pole is the more deserving achievement of the two.
"He earned it with the No. 88 guys," Earnhardt said of Bowman. "He has done a great job as a substitute driver. I really have a great friendship with Alex and I felt like if he was going to be in the race he deserved to be in that car."
In fact, it was Earnhardt that made the request for Bowman to compete in The Clash, which he ran by Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, the No. 88 team as well as Nationwide -- all of who were 100 percent behind the decision.
Earnhardt said Bowman aided the team at a crucial point in the season, running 10 races -- and sharing substitute duty with Jeff Gordon -- while Earnhardt recovered from a concussion.
"For whatever reason that was just my initial gut reaction and it feels important to me that is owed to Alex," Earnhardt explained. "He deserves it. It is a bit of a tip of the cap to not only his pole win and how well he did at Phoenix, but how he stepped in and did a great job every week for our guys. That is not an easy job to do. He helped maintain and improve the health and performance of the team in a critical time, so we can go into Daytona this year confident that we are going to be competitive and we are not behind the eight-ball or have any catching up to do."
While Earnhardt's return to the No. 88 Chevrolet SS will be at the Feb. 26 Daytona 500, he said he is looking forward to watching Bowman compete in The Clash.
"I’m excited for Alex to get that opportunity and I’m happy that it’s with (No. 88 team crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the guys that he has worked with over the last several races.”