Alex Bowman edges out Kyle Larson in OT to win NASCAR race in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS — Alex Bowman defeated NASCAR champion Kyle Larson in a door-to-door overtime battle at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that sent Hendrick Motorsports to Victory Lane for the second straight week.
Sunday’s win was Bowman’s first of the year and seventh of his career. It was the second of three NASCAR races this season for team owner Rick Hendrick. Bowman took a chance when a warning with three laps to go moved the race from a pair of Joe Gibbs Racing cars to Hendrick’s teammates. Las Vegas native Kyle Busch and teammate Martin Truex Jr. were in a turn-by-turn chess match for victory until the 12th caution ended the emotional duel.
Erik Jones lost control of his car with three laps remaining and crashed when he overcorrected. Bubba Wallace had to swerve hard to avoid punching Jones’ stalled car and it slammed Wallace into an inside wall. NASCAR issued the warning to send the race to overtime and the leaders all headed to pit road for a tire change.
The Hendrick trio of Bowman, Larson and William Byron changed just two tires to exit pit road from first to third. Busch, who had pitted as the leader, took on four tires and exited pit road in fourth.
Larson, the defending Las Vegas winner and winner last week in California, chose the outside line for the restart with Bowman on the inside. The two were in a drag race over the final two laps, and Bowman only got a meaningful separation as he closed in on the checkered flag.
Bowman, who led three times for 16 laps, beat Larson to the finish line by 0.178 seconds.
“This thing was so fast all day. We never had the track position we needed to show it,” said Bowman, who credited crew chief Greg Ives for the two-man call. tires. “What a call from Greg Ives. Obviously it paid off.”
Ross Chastain finished third for TrackHouse Racing and a podium finish for Chevrolet. Chastain, who had led just 75 laps in 117 previous starts, led a race-high 83 laps.
Busch finished fourth in a spare Toyota after crashing in Saturday morning practice when his tire went flat. The wreck destroyed his car and because backups are scarce early in NASCAR’s rollout of the Next Gen model, the only option JGR had was a non-competition “parts car”.
“A real testament to everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing,” Busch said after crews from all four teams helped prepare his car.
“Everyone helped get us out.”
He said he felt like he allowed Truex to win when the warning ended his offer.
“I don’t know what it was,” Busch said. “But anyway, it wasn’t supposed to be. Not our day. See you next week.”
Byron finished fifth to give Hendrick three top-five drivers and Aric Almirola finished sixth and the top-ranked Ford. Almirola is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in the first three NASCAR races of the season.
The win was a strong statement for team owner Hendrick, who joined the weekly competition meeting to outline his expectations for his riders after Larson and Chase Elliott had an incident in California. Larson didn’t see Elliott on the outside and pressed him against the wall as the two raced for the lead.
Larson apologized and Elliott was furious. Hendrick stifled any drama, as evidenced by the clean overtime run for the win between Bowman and Larson.
“Running Kyle is always fun,” Bowman said. “I have to race him for a few wins. We have always played each other in a very clean and very respectful way. ”
Chastain’s career was supposed to pick up speed after his decisive 2018 win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in an Xfinity Series car owned by Chip Ganassi.
But a sponsorship meltdown caused him a major setback, and it took Chastain three years to qualify for the Cup Series. He got one season with Ganassi before Ganassi sold the organization to TrackHouse Racing, which retained Chastain.
Through three races, the new arrangement suits Chastain quite well.
“It’s a dream come true. That’s what all the hard work is for,” Chastain said after finishing third. “It’s what we train for, have done our whole lives and our whole careers, once we realize we can race at this level, race cars like this. I couldn’t be more proud of TrackHouse.”
SUPPORT FOR UKRAINE
Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have both raised awareness in support of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the country.
Richard Childress responded to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s plea, “I don’t need a round, I need more ammunition”, by donating one million rounds to the country.
Childress is a board member of AMMO Inc. and worked with the company to secure the donation. He was working with a private company to organize his delivery to raise awareness of the growing humanitarian crisis and encourage relief donations.
Team owner Rick Hendrick and sponsor Hendrick Automotive Group have pledged $200,000 to Samaritan’s Purse to support disaster relief in Ukraine. Hendrick also promised an extra $2,000 for every lap one of his drivers led, and they combined 51 laps, or an extra $102,000.
The Cup Series then goes to Phoenix Raceway, where Truex is the reigning race winner. Larson won in November to claim his first Cup title.