Kyle Larson’s streak ends; Alex Bowman makes sure Hendrick’s race continues
LONG POND, Pa .– Alex Bowman watched helplessly as teammate Kyle Larson walk past him in the final laps on Saturday night at Pocono Raceway and apologized to his crew on the radio for blasting their heads.
Larson’s flat tire cost him a lot more. With a fifth straight Cup Series victory in sight, the left front tire of his No.5 Chevrolet fell within a mile of the finish line. The hottest NASCAR driver crashed into the wall in a stunning way and finished ninth.
Oh, so a flat tire is how you beat Larson.
Bowman got a second chance in a flash, and that he didn’t lose the lead. This was another example of how the past two months have gone for Hendrick Motorsports: when one driver falters, another finds his way to the victory lane.
Bowman claimed six straight wins for Hendrick, but the Shredded Tire rejected Larson’s offer for a fourth straight Cup Series points victory; he was aiming for five straight wins on the circuit including the NASCAR All-Star race, which does not count in the standings but won him a million dollar prize.
Bowman was in disbelief as he crossed the line for his third win of the season.
“It was the strangest victory I have ever been part of,” he said.
Larson, who had passed Bowman with three laps to go, laughed at his misfortune. He was perhaps a mile away from becoming the first driver since Jimmie Johnson – the seven-time champion of the season who drove for Hendrick before retiring after last season – in 2007 to win four consecutive points races on the best. NASCAR circuit. Instead, the tire fell off on the last corner of the last lap and knocked Larson out of action.
Bowman went from a lucky loser to an unlikely winner on the 2.5-mile tri-oval known as the Tricky Triangle.
Larson said he may have crushed debris before the tire deflated. Bowman was in the right place to enjoy it – an apology to victory – and has won for the third time in his last 10 races, with his other victories at Dover International Speedway (May 16) and Richmond Raceway (April 18).
“We were very lucky there with Kyle’s misfortune,” said Bowman, who recently signed a two-year contract extension with Hendrick and wasted little time rewarding the organization’s confidence in him. .
For team owner Rick Hendrick, victories follow one after the other.
Bowman started the streak in May at Dover, and defending Series champion Chase Elliott followed the following week at the Circuit of Americas. Larson went on to take three consecutive points wins in Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sonoma Raceway and last Sunday at Nashville Superspeedway – and took the All-Star victory at Texas Motor Speedway between Sonoma and Nashville – while Hendrick Motorsports became the leader of all time in the team wins in the history of the series.
All eyes were on Larson as he tried to match Johnson for the longest winning streak of this century, but after the setback he fell to ninth place.
“Disbelief, always,” Larson said. “I hate that we didn’t get another win. It would have been cool to win five in a row. I felt something in the middle of the tunnel. I wasn’t sure what it was yet. It ended up sort of shredded halfway through. That little slide is running over there. “
Bowman, 28, is in his sixth full Cup Series season and his fourth with Hendrick. Until this year he had never achieved more than one victory in a season, but he apparently gathered all the tools – hopefully – to finally have a blast.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch was second, followed by William Byron of Hendrick, Denny Hamlin of JGR and Ryan Blaney of Team Penske.
Hendrick has nine wins in total this season and tied his team record for consecutive wins set in 2007.
Bowman won the first of two Cup Series races this weekend, and the double-headed setup meant he couldn’t really enjoy the spoils of victory, like burnout in his No.48 Chevy.
“I generally drink all the beers,” he said. “I can’t do this because I have to drive the car tomorrow.”
Team leader Greg Ives laughed, complaining that he was wet because champagne had been poured on his shirt.
“You’re welcome,” Bowman said.
John Hunter Nemechek won the Truck Series race earlier on Saturday, beating team boss Busch, all the way to the finish line to start a busy Pocono schedule. The Xfinity Series races on Sunday, followed by the second Cup Series race – a 350 mile event after Saturday’s 325 miles.
NASCAR will reverse the order of the top 20 for the start of Sunday’s race. Chris Buescher, who won a shortened rainy race at Pocono in 2016, will start from pole position. The last 18 will finish at the same place.
Larson will start on Sunday in a spare car, which means he has to move to the back of the field. He is due to visit students at Urban Youth Racing School, the Philadelphia-based program that creates racing opportunities for minorities and extended an olive branch to Larson after he was suspended for using a racial slur during of a road race in April 2020.
Larson said: “We will try to start another streak tomorrow.”