Alex Bowman holds off Kyle Larson to earn first career Cup win
JOLIET, Illinois – After a nasty thunderstorm Sunday afternoon caused a more than three-hour delay, Alex Bowman stormed to his first career NASCAR Cup win in the Camping World 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
After building a nearly 3.5-second lead, Bowman saw Kyle Larson pass him with eight laps to go. But Bowman then regained the lead two laps later and held on to take the win for the first time in 134 career Cup starts.
“I was just tired of running second,” the 26-year-old Bowman told NBCSN. “I didn’t want to do that anymore. This was the last box -- aside from going to chase the championship -- that I needed personally myself to validate my career.
“This is all I hear, about me not winning a race. Now everybody can stop giving me crap, we finally did it.”
Bowman, who earlier this season had three consecutive runner-up finishes, admits this takes a big load off his shoulders emotionally.
“We struggled so bad last year and the beginning of this year, I had questions whether Mr. H. (team owner Rick Hendrick) was going to let me keep doing this,” Bowman said. “To be here winning a race in the Cup Series means so much.”
After taking the checkered flag to conclude the 267-lap race, Bowman forgot that the infield grass was so water-logged from the earlier storm and got his Chevrolet Camaro stuck in the mud. He needed to have the car towed out to get to victory lane.
“I’m the dumb guy that won the race and then got stuck in the mud,” Bowman quipped.
It marked the second straight race at Chicagoland Speedway that Larson finished second, having lost to Kyle Busch on the last lap of last year’s race.
“I wish I could have got the win, but still a good day,” Larson told NBCSN. “I felt good about my car, especially on the long runs. ... I was actually surprised I even got to him (Bowman). I just thought he was going to check out. He was struggling, we got to him and got by, but he did a good job to regroup and get the win. It was cool to see him get the win. I’m happy for him.”
Joey Logano finished third, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, William Byron, Martin Truex Jr. and pole sitter Austin Dillon.
Logano, who earned his seventh top-10 finish in 11 Cup starts at Chicagoland Speedway, now holds an 18-point lead over Kyle Busch in the NASCAR Cup standings.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Denny Hamlin
STAGE 2 WINNER: Kevin Harvick
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: While Bowman had the best race, it was a great run for Larson and Johnson, who both have not won a race since 2017. … Bowman’s win marked only the second time this season that a driver other than a Joe Gibbs Racing or Team Penske driver has won a race. The only other driver to win is Bowman’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Chase Elliott, who took the victory at Talladega.
WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Clint Bowyer spun into the infield with two laps left in Stage 1. Bowyer had to slowly work his way through the water-soaked grass to prevent getting stuck, causing him to lose significant time, even with the race under caution as a result. Bowyer had another flat tire on Lap 96, making a bad day even worse. Bowyer finished 37th in the 38-car field ... Kyle Busch placed 22nd after he had multiple unscheduled pit stops for flat tires and to put out a fire from tire rubber build up in his right rear. It’s just his second finish outside the top 10 through 17 races
NOTABLE: Toyota had won the last four and five of the last six races at Chicagoland Speedway before Bowman’s Chevy won Sunday. … The race was suspended on Lap 12 due to the heavy rainstorm. The delay was three hours, 18 minutes before the race resumed. … Three drivers were sent to the rear of the field at the start of the race: the No. 24 of William Byron (engine change), the No. 32 of Corey LaJoie (transmission change) and the No. 36 of Matt Tifft (pre-race inspection failure).
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This is all I wanted my whole life and I feel like this is a validation for a lot of people who said we couldn’t do this.” – Alex Bowman.
WHAT’S NEXT: Coke Zero Sugar 400, Saturday July 6, 7:30 p.m. ET, Daytona International Speedway.
Bowman received some noteworthy congratulations after his win:
Congrats to @AlexBowman88 There is nothing like your 1st win. He damn sure earned it!— Jeff Burton (@JeffBurton) July 1, 2019
.@AlexBowman88 was once fired from Tommy Baldwin Racing and found out about it on Twitter. His career could have ended right there. That was only 3.5 years ago, and now he’s a Cup Series winner for freakin’ Hendrick Motorsports.— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) July 1, 2019