Despite the endorsement of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Junior Nation was not willing to accept Alex Bowman as the heir to the #88 ride.  All they focused on was two full seasons in the Cup Series and just 3 top-20 finishes...none better than 16th. They ignored the fact that those years were spent in third-tier equipment.

But, put a driver in good equipment, and look what happens.  Bowman showed enough in the 10 races he filled in for Junior in 2016, including leading 194 laps at Phoenix, that Rick Hendrick kept him around for a full-time ride.

Even though he seems older, Bowman is still just 26.  Shoot, he holds the distinction of having finished in every possible position in a Cup race: 1st to 43rd.  And the emotion he showed after winning at Chicagoland spoke volumes; especially when he said he'd had enough of finishing second.

Now, let's see how much of that drive continues now that he's made his first trip to Victory Lane.  That will tell us if he's championship material.