Bowman throwback scheme a nod to ‘best teammate ever’

Alex Bowman doesn’t have a good story or memory of the paint scheme Jimmie Johnson dominated the NASCAR Cup Series with during the 2000s. But Bowman, of course, recognizes the design and gets to drive it himself later this month.

Ally, Bowman’s primary sponsor, has modeled its paint scheme for throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway (Sunday, May 12) after the Lowe’s car Johnson will forever be connected with. It’s the same design and color scheme Johnson drove from his rookie season in 2002 through 2005.

“When I was watching NASCAR races growing up, I probably wouldn’t have picked up on the subtle changes that the 48 had over the course of all the Lowe’s cars,” Bowman told RACER. “Until the end, when they started changing a bunch more, they were all similar for the most part. And I was a big Jeff Gordon fan anyway, so I was much more focused on cheering on the 24 anyway.

“But it’s definitely cool to get to drive it.”

Jimmie Johnson leads Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers at Kansas in 2006. Nigel Kinrade/Motorsport Images

Johnson’s paint scheme began to change in 2006 when the curve on the door went from in front of the No. 48 to behind the number, and the blue on the door went black. A neon stripe was also added from the rear bumper to in front of the rear wheel.

Another change to the scheme was it became primarily white in 2010. In 2012, the scheme went solid blue with white lettering. However, in 2015, the design returned to a more familiar look with the Lowe’s store sign outline on the hood and lines on the door. The final season for Lowe’s as Johnson’s sponsor was in 2018, and the car’s primary color was black.

Ally joined Hendrick Motorsports and Johnson in 2019. Bowman inherited the number and sponsor after Johnson’s retirement in 2020.

“To get to take over the 48 was really cool,” he said. “But back then (when Johnson won so much), things were way different.” Bowman continued with a laugh, “I don’t think all the cars in the field were the same back then by any means.

“But it’s definitely going to be really neat, and to see Jimmie’s reaction was really cool. Hopefully, we can get it in victory lane because obviously that car went to victory lane quite a bit.”

Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman at Bristol in 2014. Russell LaBounty/Motorsport Images

Bowman joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2016 as a substitute driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr. before becoming his successor when he retired a year later. It put Bowman in a unique situation of taking over for one popular driver while becoming teammates with another, who was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame earlier this year.

“Gosh, by far the best teammate ever,” Bowman said of Johnson. “He’s just a great human being (in) every category: work ethic, the way he treats people, he’s so good at all of it. To be able to learn from him was always really cool as a teammate. But then to be friends with him and talk to him was really fun. I’m just appreciative of all the support over the years; he made me a way better race car driver and person.”

The relationship between Bowman and Johnson started years before Bowman joined the company. Bowman’s first year in the Cup Series was 2014, and his first two years were spent driving underfunded equipment for Ron Devine (BK Racing) and Tommy Baldwin. Despite the difference in their garage hierarchy, Johnson was one of the first people to connect with and be complimentary of Bowman.

“I think he came up to me leaving the driver’s meeting somewhere and just started talking to me,” Bowman recalled. “He said, ‘Man, I can’t believe you could drive that thing last week because it was so loose. You had no grip.’ Which was primarily every weekend for the first two years of my career. It’s just cool to have somebody recognize that at that point in my career. In those days, my job was to maximize our day but also not ruin anybody else’s day.

“I feel like a lot of lapped cars these days, they’ll air block and race you and hang on to your quarter panel down the straightaway and slow you down. If you did that back then, it was not going to be OK. So, things have obviously changed a ton. But to earn somebody’s respect at that level, especially the respect of Jimmie, who was at the top of his game, meant a lot.”

Bowman has five wins (of the seven in his career) driving the No. 48 Chevrolet with Ally sponsorship. The group has sat on the Daytona 500 pole twice.

In 12 starts at Darlington, Bowman has three top-10 finishes. Among those is a runner-up finish from 2020.

Story originally appeared on Racer