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Alex Bowman will miss at least the next two NASCAR Cup Series races. Is his replacement at Hendrick Motorsports auditioning for a future ride?

Alex Bowman’s 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season came to a screeching halt a few weeks back. After qualifying for the round of 12 in the playoffs for the fifth straight season, he suffered concussion-like symptoms following a single-car crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Since the accident, Xfinity Series driver Noah Gragson has filled in for him behind the wheel of the #48 Chevrolet.

The Las Vegas, Nevada native, who is currently competing for the Xfinity Series championship, has found himself an additional ride in the Cup Series. He had already been competing part-time for Kaulig Racing and Beard Motorsports.

Gragson finished in 19th place at Talladega Superspeedway, 23rd at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, and a team-best 11th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Bowman, however, remains on the sideline with an unknown future. While he’s scheduled to miss at least the next two races, concussion-like symptoms have proven to be serious with the Next Gen car.

Kurt Busch, who suffered a similar injury, recently announced his retirement from full-time competition due to health concerns. While Bowman’s goal may be to return for the season finale at Phoenix Raceway, there are no guarantees.

Given Bowman’s unknown future and the fact that his contract is up after next year, is the #48 Chevrolet currently serving as an audition-type ride?

Bowman’s contracts with Hendrick Motorsports and primary sponsor Ally both expire at the end of the 2023 season.

With Busch retiring and citing health as the reason, Tyler Reddick is set to join the team in 2023. He had been set to join the team in 2024, but his current contract with Richard Childress Racing was bought out as a result of Busch’s decision.

Gragson is set to compete in the Cup Series full-time next year, replacing Ty Dillion behind the wheel of the #42 Chevrolet at Petty GMS Motorsports. He reportedly signed a multi-year contract to drive for Maury Gallagher and Hall of Famer Richard Petty.

While keeping Bowman for 2023 is obviously in Hendrick Motorsports’ plans, an unknown future could lead them to consider another driver for the #48 Chevrolet anyway.

If so, Gragson could be targeted as the man for the job. A contract buyout is something that cannot be ruled out, and the move could keep Gragson in the JR Motorsports/Hendrick Motorsports camp after a season at Petty GMS Motorsports.

While Kyle Larson may have always been in Rick Hendrick’s 2021 plans after Jimmie Johnson retired, it’s worth noting Gragson’s name was dropped as a potential replacement for the seven-time Cup Series champion as well. Due to unfortunate circumstances, could he find himself as a candidate to drive the #48 Chevrolet once again?

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