SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Alex Bowman has a contract with Hendrick Motorsports that runs through 2019 and will see him replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 next year, but the status of the organization’s No. 5 team was not addressed in detail Sunday morning press conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
That status didn’t make a significant change nearly 12 hours later, after No. 5 driver Kasey Kahne won the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400.
The 24-year-old Bowman had been working in the simulator for Hendrick Motorsports as well as testing for Chevrolet with the manufacturer’s wheel force transducer vehicle. He was one of two drivers who filled in for Earnhardt Jr. last fall while the popular NASCAR competitor was recovering from a concussion that kept him out of the final 18 races of the season.
Hendrick Motorsports also fields entries for seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48), Chase Elliott (No. 24) and Kahne (No. 5).
There is speculation that changes could be in store for the No. 5 team of Kahne, although he is signed to drive through 2018.
Asked about any changes, team owner Rick Hendrick simply said “that’s another day.” Those comments came before the Brickyard 400, which Kahne won in an overtime finish, snapping a 102-race winless skid.
That long-awaited victory — Kahne’s first in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since 2014 — meant another media center trip for Hendrick as the winning car owner. Asked pointblank about the status for Kahne and the No. 5 ride, Hendrick confirmed that nothing firm was in place.
“Our plans are not set for the 5 car,” Hendrick said. “So, you know, you guys asked me that this morning, and I told you, you know, that we hadn’t made any plans yet. There’s nothing concrete or done, and that hasn’t changed.
“We’ll see how things shake out, you know, the rest of the year. There’s a lot of things involved, sponsors and a lot of things we look at. We’re going to try hard. But there’s no decisions made at this time.”
Kahne, 37, now sits 20th in points as the series leaves Indianapolis. He began the season with consecutive top-10 results at Daytona and Atlanta but managed only one more top 10 until his breakthrough win at Indianapolis.
Kahne acknowledged the murmurs about an uncertain future with the team in his post-race press conference, but said that his determination to perform has not wavered.
“Yeah, I think this just shows I still want to win races,” Kahne said. “This shows that I gave it all that I can to get a win. It shows that I’m passionate about driving stock cars, that I can still win races, too.
“I have a deal through 2018 with Hendrick Motorsports. Hear a lot of things, but tough to say exactly what’s going to happen because I don’t know at this point this time. I know me and Mr. H will figure it out. But I think this just shows that I want to do it, and that I still have the drive and passion to do it, and I enjoy it. So I’m going to keep trying hard, I know that.”
Asked earlier Sunday about possibly scaling back to three teams next year, Hendrick said “the plan is to run four cars next year.”
Veteran driver Matt Kenseth, who will not return to Joe Gibbs Racing next season, was not a consideration for the No. 88 opening, according to the team owner.
“I love Matt Kenseth, he’s a tremendous talent,” Hendrick said. “But he and I have talked about this in the past, sometimes things just don’t line up at the right time.”