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Alex Bowman still looking for ride in 2017

Alex Bowman, replacement driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 car, wins the pole position for the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix in front of his home crowd.

After getting the best opportunity of his career, Alex Bowman is still waiting for the next one.

Bowman, who makes his ninth substitute start this weekend in the No. 88 Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., says he has yet to nail down any plans for next season.

“I’m still waiting for the right opportunity to come along,” Bowman said Friday at Phoenix International Raceway. “There’s nothing that has really fit that has come along. I’ll still probably have my day job at Hendrick Motorsports driving the simulator. We’ll go from there.”

The 23-year-old driver then went out and give himself a potential boost for his job prospects. Bowman earned his first Sprint Cup pole for Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix. The pole comes in his 80th Cup start.

“To do this in Phoenix, so close to home, means so much to me,” Bowman said afterward. “We have had such fast racecars we haven’t had an ounce of luck, but to get a pole here means a lot.”

It wasn’t long ago that the only racing plans Bowman had for this season were his eight Xfinity Series starts in JR Motorsports’ No. 88 Chevrolet.

Then Earnhardt was ruled out for the season, having sustained a concussion in June, but not presenting symptoms until July.

Bowman, who does simulator work for Hendrick Motorsports, was called in to replace Earnhardt for the first time July 15 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He split the rest of the season in the No. 88 with Jeff Gordon.

“This is great for his career, this is exactly what we were hoping to happen for him,” Earnhardt said. “Hopefully, he can put it together on Sunday.”

Bowman’s earned two top 10s in his nine starts.

“Really it’s been a big learning process on how Hendrick Motorsports works – the process on doing things, how they operate as a team,” Bowman said. “It’s been incredible to be a part of it, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot doing it. It’s been a lot of fun and a huge blessing in my life to do this. I’m trying to make the most of it but at the same time trying to have as much fun as I can. You never know when this is going to end or if you’re ever going to get an opportunity like this again.”

Bowman, a native of Tucson, Arizona, makes his final Xfinity start of the season this weekend at his home track. He is still looking for his first Xfinity win.

“There’s probably a little more pressure for sure, especially on the Xfinity side,” Bowman said. “We’ve been close to winning here before, so it would be amazing to pick up a first win here. We’re going to do everything we can to make that happen and hopefully sweep both races and make it easy.”

Bowman makes his final start in the Sprint Cup’s No. 88 next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.