Alex Bowman finishes tenure in No. 88, adds to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Daytona 500 notebook

Alex Bowman finished his tenure in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on a high note in the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway.

A crash involving Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski while battling for the lead on the final lap paved the way for Bowman’s third-place finish.

In his final Monster Energy Cup Series race for the time being, Bowman fought hard for second with Kyle Busch in the final turn, but it was Busch who edged out Bowman at the line.

After the race, Busch approached Bowman about the finish, wanting to know why Bowman chose to pass him instead of working with him to catch eventual race winner Joey Logano.

Kyle Busch (left) talks with Alex Bowman about their battle for second-place in the Clash at Daytona. (Chase Wilhelm/FOX Sports)

“He (Busch) wanted my side as to why I was trying to pass him, and I say to try to finish better,” Bowman told FOXSports.com. “He wanted me to push him because he though he could catch the No. 22. He probably could have, but then I’m going to push him to the win. I’d rather try to advance my own position.

“We struggled today,” he added. “We’d get big runs, but the car would kind of stall out, and I knew if I pushed him (Busch), then I was going to stall myself out and those two were going to have at it.”

Bowman took the conversation with the 2015 Cup champion as a learning experience, indicating they have a good relationship off the track.

“Kyle is a buddy of mine,” Bowman said. “Everything was really civil and all good. Just happy to be here with Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a lot of fun. Looking forward to being a small role on the team in the future.”

After the Clash was postponed from Saturday night to Sunday morning due to weather, Bowman’s final mission in the No. 88 by gathering vital information for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he makes a return to Cup competition in the Daytona 500 (Feb. 26, 2 p.m. ET, FOX).

“I think when it became a day race, we all got pretty excited,” Bowman said. “We felt like we could add to the notebook for Dale. Really happy about that. I hope it helps them in the 500.

Bowman even made an early prediction for next Sunday’s race.

“He’s (Earnhardt) a hell of a speedway racer,” Bowman added. “My pick is definitely going to be on the No. 88 to win the 500.”