NASCAR takeaways: Alex Bowman fourth Hendrick driver into playoffs with Chicago win

[ad_1]

CHICAGO — Alex Bowman suffered a concussion following an accident in a NASCAR Cup Series race in 2022 and broke his back in a sprint-car accident in 2023.

He has been healthy in 2024, except for maybe being sick to his stomach without a victory.

NASCAR Cup Series: Grant Park 165 highlights

NASCAR Cup Series: Grant Park 165 highlights

Bowman snapped an 80-race winless streak by capturing a rain-filled, darkness-shortened Cup race on the streets of Chicago as he outlasted Tyler Reddick (who was on slick tires while Bowman was on slower rain tires) over the final circuits of the 2.2-mile course through the city streets around Grant Park.

“I broke my back, had a brain injury, and we’ve kind of sucked ever since, and … you start to second-guess if you’re ever going to get a chance to win a race again,” Bowman said.

The only Hendrick Motorsports driver not to win this year until Sunday, Bowman’s victory in the race — shortened from 75 laps to 58 laps as rain interrupted the event and then darkness arrived — was a boost of confidence for Bowman as well as possibly will quell rumors of him being on the hot seat despite a contract that runs through 2026.

“It’s important that you gel and the chemistry comes and the effort is there, but you’ve got to win at some point,” said Hendrick vice chairman Jeff Gordon. “You’ve got to win not just because you’re at Hendrick Motorsports but because it’s really hard to get the team where they need to be to compete at the highest level on a regular basis … without victories.”

The thing is, Bowman didn’t totally suck. His 11 top-10s this season are tied for second-most in the series. But winning and making the playoffs are the expectation for the team (crew chief Blake Harris earned his first career Cup victory in that role) and Bowman had led six laps all season.

“I just kind of tried to take care of the tires and then I realized that there was slicks coming and ran pretty hard there for the last two laps,” Bowman said. “There was only so much time left in the race and I knew with a gap that I saw behind me that we were in a really good spot.”

Takeaways from another wet Chicago race (the second year for the event) where Reddick finished second, followed by Ty Gibbs, Joey Hand and Michael McDowell.

Wallace Slams Bowman 

Bubba Wallace door-slammed Bowman after the race, angry over contact in the opening stage. NASCAR will evaluate the postrace contact for any potential penalties.

“He barely hit me; everything was fine,” Bowman said. “it was plenty deserved.”

Bowman advocated for no penalty — he said it was his fault and Wallace had a right to be mad. 

“The restart was chaotic, right. I just made every wrong decision I possibly could and I was I fighting with my windshield wiper switch, trying to get the thing working and I couldn’t get it working. And I was focused on that, missed the corner and cleaned him out.

“I locked all four tires up and slid right into him. I just messed up and absolutely ruined his day.”

The two drivers had an infamous moment in 2019 when Wallace threw water on Bowman as Bowman sat by his car exhausted following a race. Bowman said that was bygones.

“We’ve raced each other super fair and super clean,” Bowman said. “I just messed up and ruined his day and I hate that.”

Two Favorites Crash Out 

Kyle Larson and defending race winner Shane van Gisbergen were two of the favorites coming into the race and both saw their races end early in the wet conditions.

Chase Briscoe ran into the back of van Gisbergen on Lap 25 while Larson locked up his brakes soon after the race resumed from a rain delay and hit the Turn 6 wall hard on Lap 34.

“I’m bummed,” Larson said. “It just caught me off-guard. You push the brake zones a little bit more each lap as you’re getting more comfortable, but it just surprised me.”

While Larson could at least know that his own mistake ended his day, it wasn’t the case for van Gisbergen.

“We were in the lead for a lot of that race,” van Gisbergen said. “I felt good taking off in the rain, so that sucks. It’s an unfortunate mistake by him. I’m sure he didn’t mean it, but when he just clipped me, there wasn’t anything I could do.”

NASCAR’S New Darkness Procedures Tested

After last year when NASCAR told teams after Lap 50 that the race would be shortened to 75 laps (from 100 scheduled) and ruined the strategy for some, NASCAR instituted a new darkness rule.

That rule came into effect Sunday as NASCAR told teams as the rain delay — a delay that last 1 hour, 43 minutes — started that the race would end at 8:20 p.m. CT. The new rule dictates that once that time is reached and then the leader crosses the start-finish line, there are two laps remaining.

Drivers after the race indicated they were OK with the procedure.

“The good thing about it was at least we all sort of knew what the process and procedure was this time, where last time that was what took us out of having a shot at winning the race because we pitted and then they shortened the race and all the guys that didn’t pit kept the track position and made it to the end,” McDowell said.

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


Get more from NASCAR Cup Series Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more




[ad_2]

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *