Alex Bowman after winning Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Oct. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Alex Bowman arrived at Daytona International Speedway as a full-time Cup driver with his very own ride. 
"It was an opportunity that I never thought I was going to be able to get," Bowman said Saturday. 
He was the replacement driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr. for 10 races when Earnhardt was sidelined with a concussion in 2016. Bowman did well enough that team owner Rick Hendrick kept him in mind for this year, when he needed a new driver in the No. 88 Chevrolet following Earnhardt's retirement. 
Bowman got just three races on NASCAR's national level last year _ two in the Xfinity Series, one in the Truck Series, but made the most out of his opportunties. He won at Charlotte and finished eighth at Phoenix in Xfinity cars. 
But he's at Daytona as a Cup driver, now, and is preparing for the Feb. 18 season-opening Daytona 500. Bowman ran in the 2014 Daytona 500 and finished 23rd. As the replacement for one of the most prolific plate racers of the last two decades, Bowman is leaning on Earnhardt and the Hendrick stable to get him ready for the 500. He's also chatted with seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, his new teammate, and four-time champion Jeff Gordon. 
"Superspeedway racing comes with a lot of experience. You've got to kind of get experience to figure out what works," Bowman said. "I've run a handful of superspeedway races in a Cup car, but not a ton.
"I spent a lot of time talking to Dale last night about when to use runs and when to be aggressive and stuff like that. Hopefully, I can learn as much as I can from them. I wouldn't say superspeedway racing is my favorite. I like races that you can control your own destiny and superspeedway racing you definitely can't do that. Obviously, I've been out of the car for a while, so just going to do the best I can and see where we end up." 
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