As Dale Jr.’s successor, Alex Bowman feels pressure from a different source

AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 10: Alex Bowman, driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway on March 10, 2018 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

You might think Alex Bowman would chafe under the weight of the pressure that accompanies stepping into the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet vacated by Dale Earnhardt Jr. after last season.

You’d be wrong.

What motivates Bowman to a greater degree is the history of Hendrick Motorsports, where winning races and titles has become the expectation over the past three decades.

“I think, honestly, there’s not a lot of pressure in the fact that it’s Dale’s old car, it’s the No. 88 car,” Bowman said. “The pressure for me comes from the fact that it’s a Hendrick Motorsports car. Hendrick Motorsports is known for winning races and winning championships, and that’s what I’m expected to do.

“I think most of my pressure comes from myself and the fact that I just want to win races and prove that I can do it. For me, there are a lot of No. 88 fans, obviously, and my job is to give them something to cheer for. I don’t feel like we’ve done a very good job of that this year. We’ve had hints of brilliance and hints of being able to run up front, but we haven’t consistently given them something to really cheer for every weekend.

“We know we need to get better, and I think that will come with wins, but there’s not a lot of pressure from the Dale side of things. It’s just pressure because I want to win.”

Thirteen races into the season, Hendrick is still looking for its first win, but the speed of the Hendrick cars has improved recently. Bowman comes to Sunday’s Pocono 400 (at 2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) fresh from his fourth top 10 of the season (ninth in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte).