Alex Bowman Overcomes Pit Road Penalty And Pulls Off Upset In Richmondby Hunter Thomas April 18, 2021 0 comments
RICHMOND, Va. – Alex Bowman bounced back from a pit road penalty and stole the win away from Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway.
An incredible battle for the lead between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin was heating up, when Kevin Harvick blew a tire and crashed in Turn 1 to bring out the caution on Lap 382. Drivers hit pit road, and it was Hamlin just barely edging Logano to retake the lead. On the final restart with 12 laps to go, Hamlin chose the bottom line with Loagno alongside of him; however, when the green flag flew, it was Alex Bowman who quickly took over the lead with 10 laps to go. Bowman set sail and became the eighth different winner in nine races this season.
“We just had a great race car; it’s as simple as that,” Bowman said. “Greg Ives (Crew Chief) and all the guys, they have to deal with me at short tracks and I drive these places really wrong. We kind of instead of trying to make me figure it out, we went to work on getting the race car where I needed it to be. Greg has done such an amazing job at making that happen.”
Bowman continued and said, “First and foremost, got to thank Ally and Chevrolet; everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. This one is for Rowdy and his family. Miss him and Blakley every day. Just means the world to be able to win for Ally. It’s definitely emotional, obviously, with how hard the off-season was on us. Appreciative for the opportunity and we have more races to win this year.”
The win marked Bowman’s third victory in the NASCAR Cup Series. During the caution at the end of Stage 2, Bowman, who was running fourth at the time, had an uncontrolled tire on his pit stop, and he had to drop to the tail end of the field. Bowman and his Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Ally Chevrolet team battled back in the final stage and were there at the end when it counted.
“To be honest with you, we were terrible on short runs,” Bowman said. “We restarted third and I’m like man, if we get out of here with a solid top-five, we’ll be good. We’ve overcome a lot today. I don’t know if Greg pumped the pressures way up or what he did, but that’s more grip than I’ve ever had in a race car at Richmond and it worked out really well. Getting to race a guy like Denny (Hamlin) at a place that this is really cool. I feel like we raced each other really clean, so I’m appreciative of that. It means a lot.”
The second-place finish was a huge disappointment for Denny Hamlin who is still winless this season, despite leading the point standings by a large margin. The driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota led a race high of 207 laps, and prior to the final caution coming out, the race had come down between him and Logano. In the end, Bowman just had more grip than Hamlin in the final laps.
“We just didn’t take off quite as good there at the end,” Hamlin said. “I tried to warm it up and do everything that I could – just the 48 (Alex Bowman) had a little more on those last few laps and I couldn’t hold the bottom. Once he got the position, we were just shut down there. Great job by this FedEx Ground team. First and foremost, we want to think of all of the families in Indy right now. Awful tragedy to happen there. Our thoughts and prayers are with these names. We will get them. We will keep digging. We are dominating – just have to finish it.”
Logano held on to finish third in the Team Penske No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford. In the closing laps, Logano appeared to have the advantage over Hamlin as they battled for the lead. Hamlin was hanging on and challenging, but Logano was able to hold him at bay. On the final restart, Logano just wasn’t able to challenge for the win.
“We just needed more turn,” Logano said. “We didn’t turn good enough to take off. The 48 sure did. They put the qualifying pressures in or something. That thing took off like a rocket. Denny and I caught him the last few laps, which was probably because they showed the adjustments they made to their car to make it fire off. They started to pay a penalty at the end, but they were too far out. Congratulations to them. They beat us. They beat us fair and square. It stinks when you’re that close. We were leading with a few to go. Denny and I had a hell of a race. It was pretty fun there for a minute, but here we are third.”
Christopher Bell finished a solid fourth, while his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Martin Truex Jr. bounced back from a Lap 294 green flag pit road speeding penalty to finish fifth. Truex led 107 laps throughout the afternoon.
“Driver screwed up our chances there for sure,” Truex said. “Auto Owner’s Toyota Camry was really fast. Just like last week, we got off in the middle of the race and then stage three we got it dialed in and I got caught speeding on pit road. We had to drive all the way back through the field and under green, that was tough. We got all the way back to fifth. Heck of an effort by the guys and wish I hadn’t made that mistake so I could have seen what I could have done with them.”
Aric Almirola finished sixth, followed by William Byron, Kyle Busch who overcame a commitment line violation, Matt DiBenedetto and Austin Dillon.
There were 20 lead changes among seven drivers.
Only two cautions were for accidents. Ryan Newman spin in Turn 3 to bring out the caution on Lap 142, and Harvick brought out the final caution that set the field up for a late-race restart.
The NASCAR Cup Series will visit Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, April 25. The GEICO 500 will broadcast live on FOX and MRN at 2 p.m. ET.
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