Alex Bowman is set to fill the seat of a retiring Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2018. Bowman didn’t have much of a chance to race in 2017, but seized the chances he has gotten in the last few years. He started three NASCAR races in 2017, two in the XFINITY Series and one in the Truck Series. He substituted for a too-young Justin Haley at Atlanta in March, starting fifth and finishing sixth. In his two XFINITY races, he ran the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing machine. First, he ran at Charlotte in October and took victory. He hadn’t raced a NASCAR car in competition in about seven months before that event. He followed that victory up with an eighth place finish at Phoenix about a month later.

While Bowman is young and hasn’t had much seat time recently, it is worth remembering he’s not a rookie. He has 81 Cup starts, running two seasons with Tommy Baldwin Racing in 2014 and 2015 and made 10 starts in the No. 88 car substituting for an injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2016. He finished on the lead lap in seven of those ten races, and had an average finish of about 20th. Bad luck brought that average down, as mechanical problems derailed strong runs at Michigan and Charlotte. Unfortunate instances of contact ruined a couple of other runs. Bowman was, despite this, still able to finish inside the top ten three times. His best run came at Phoenix, where he won the pole and led 194 of the race’s 324 laps. Contact with Matt Kenseth late set him back to sixth place, but Bowman put together a run far better than Junior could. In the 18 races Dale Jr. ran before he was injured, he only led 53 laps across three races and had an average finish of about 15th to Bowman’s 20th. Bowman also ran nine races for JR Motorsports in 2016, earning an average finish of 11th and leading 51 laps across three races. Bowman also finish eight of his nine races on the lead lap, aside from one wreck at Phoenix.

Alex Bowman hasn’t had much seat time in the last two years, but in the 22 NASCAR races he has participated in in that span, he’s shown he can compete and win in top equipment.