Intense as it may be, speculation on who will replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. when he retires at the end of the NASCAR season remains just that, for now, but NASCAR’s most popular driver has established his own favorite.
Never miss a local story.
“Alex Bowman to the 88 next year? Is that what you guys want?” asked Earnhardt. “That would be pretty awesome to see Alex in that car. That’s the plan I hope.”
Earnhardt also dismissed a fan’s inquiry about Ryan Blaney taking his place.
“Blaney is working for Penske. He’s not going anywhere,” Earnhardt said. “Penske is not going to let Blaney go anywhere, and neither would I.”
Then Earnhardt repeated his endorsement of Bowman.
“Yeah, Alex in the 88,” Earnhardt said. “That sounds good to me. I mean that kid earned it last year. He ran good.”
Bowman, 24, drove the No. 88 in 10 races last year when Earnhardt was sidelined by a concussion. Bowman won the pole at Phoenix International Raceway and had three top-10 finishes in the No. 88 in 2016.
Overall, Bowman has had 81 Cup Series starts with no wins.
The Tucson, Ariz., native has not competed this season in a NASCAR Cup or Xfinity race. He’s made one Truck Series appearance, finishing sixth at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March.
Bowman works as a test driver in Hendrick Motorsports’ racing simulator.
Bowman told the Observer in February that he had some Cup offers but “there just really wasn’t anything that was going to make me leave Hendrick Motorsports.
“I want to be part of a winning organization, whether I am driving, just working for the team, doing testing or doing the simulation stuff. ... Nothing was going to drag me away from here.”
If Earnhardt has his way, apparently, no one will drag him away from Hendrick anytime soon.
Follow Mike Reader on Twitter.