Alex Bowman holds off Kyle Larson to earn first career Cup win

Leave a comment

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.”

MORE: Race results, points

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:

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Team Penske looks to extend Talladega dominance amid 2020 woes

Leave a comment

If there’s one thing Talladega Superspeedway is known for, it’s chaos.

But for as much chaos as the 2.66-mile track can provide, Talladega has another quality it produces: consistency in Victory Lane.

In the 2010s and up through the June Cup race, the consistency has been produced by Team Penske.

Since May 2012, Penske drivers have won nine of 17 races. Brad Keselowski has four of his five Talladega wins, Joey Logano has three and Ryan Blaney has won each of the last two races by .007 seconds.

The other eight races were won by Roush Fenway Racing (two wins), Hendrick Motorsports (two), Front Row Motorsports (one), Chip Ganassi Racing (one), Stewart-Haas Racing (one) and Joe Gibbs Racing (one).

When it comes to races like this weekend’s playoff event (2 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC), one would expect even more chaos and less consistency among winners.

You’d be wrong on the latter.

Penske’s three drivers have combined to win five of the last six Talladega playoff races. The winner of the sixth race was Aric Almirola in the 2018 playoff race.

Last week Keselowski observed how races at superspeedways have “ebbs and flows” with them currently resembling “a MAVTV demo derby just a little faster.”

On Thursday, the 2012 Cup champion credited Team Penske having a “great” driver lineup with its ability to win in a form of racing that’s constantly evolving.

“I think we have the strongest driver lineup in Cup right now,” Keselowski said. “I know that’s probably arguable and it’s completely subjective. That’s played to our favorite tracks like the plate tracks and we’re going to continue to try and leverage it.”

While Blaney has enjoyed recent success at Talladega with his two victories, Keselowski looks to re-establish his winning ways at the track he has five victories, the most among active drivers.

After winning the 2017 playoff race, he has five consecutive finishes of 13th or worse, including two DNFs for wrecks.

“It’s been up and down for me,” Keselowski said. “The last few races have probably been down. Last fall I thought we were going to win the race with two or three (laps) to go. We were making the pass for the lead and the next thing I know we’re all wrecked. It’s a love-hate affair with that track for sure and hopefully we’ll love it. I feel like we’re due for a good finish there.”

Keselowski enters Sunday’s race after miserable outings in the last two playoff races. He finished 34th at Bristol (power steering problems) and 13th at Las Vegas.

Talladega could be the relief Keselowski’s teammates are looking for as well.

Blaney, who was eliminated from the playoffs after the Round of 16, hasn’t had a top-five finish in the last nine races. Logano, while he has two top fives in the playoffs (third at Darlington and Richmond), hasn’t won since the March race at Phoenix. That was the last race before the COVID-19 shutdown.

Keselowski said “it is a bit strange” that Team Penske can view Talladega as a track where it can turn its season around.

“We haven’t been where we want to be on the mile-and-a-halfs, there’s no doubt about that,” Keselowski said. “The mile-and-a-halfs and road courses have been a weak spot for us. The superspeedways and short tracks have been a strong spot for us. Thankfully we have the superspeedway this weekend and couple of short tracks coming up in the next round (Martinsville).

“We need to kind of maximize out strengths and minimize our weaknesses. This weekend is certainly looking like a strength for us. We have high expectations.”

Kaz Grala subs for Natalie Decker in Talladega Truck race

Kaz Grala
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Natalie Decker has not been medically cleared to compete in Saturday’s Truck Series race at Talladega (1 p.m. ET on FS1) and will be replaced by Kaz Grala in Niece Motorsports’ No. 44 Chevrolet the team announced Thursday.

Decker withdrew from last weekend’s race at Las Vegas after she was not medically cleared shortly before the race. She was credited with a last-place finish.

Decker tweeted Saturday that she was flying home where “more tests (would be) run so they can further evaluate and diagnose.”

No further details about Decker’s condition have been announced.

“We are thankful that Kaz is able to fill in for Natalie this weekend and appreciate him working with our team,” team general manager Cody Efaw said in a press release. “We wish Natalie the best as she works to be as healthy as possible to return to racing.”

Grala will make his first Truck Series start since 2017. He has 32 career starts in the series, including one win in the 2017 season-opening race at Daytona.

He drove in Austin Dillon’s place earlier this year in the Cup race on the Daytona road course after Dillon tested positive for COVID-19.

“My thoughts will be with Natalie this weekend as I wish her a quick recovery,” Grala said in a press release. “I know she loves the restrictor-plate races, so I feel bad that she’ll have to miss this one, but I hope I can give her something to cheer for on Saturday. 

“It’s been a few years since I’ve been in a Truck, but the superspeedway races have been very good to me in the past, so I’m really hoping to be able to go grab a win for Niece Motorsports at Talladega.”

FanVision closes due to impact of COVID-19 pandemic

Leave a comment

FanVision Entertainment, the company that produces video devices used by race fans at NASCAR events, has ceased operations due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news was announced in a statement from Racing Electronics, the company which sold and supported FanVision devices at NASCAR tracks through a license with FanVision Entertainment.

Racing Electronics, which is owned by NASCAR, can no longer sell or support the devices.

“We recognize this news will be met with disappointment by motorsports fans across the country who utilized FanVision’s products as part of their at-track experience,” Racing Electronics president Chad Willis said in a statement.

“To help fans and industry members transition to Racing Electronics products, we are working with existing FanVision device owners to solve their race day needs. When Racing Electronics returns to the track, fans and industry members will have access to all the sounds that make racing so special.”

RCR, Hendrick to collaborate on Chevy engine

1 Comment

Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing will team up on research and development of a common Chevrolet engine after the conclusion of the 2020 season, the teams announced Thursday.

The two organizations will continue to function independently as they “fully leverage the knowledge and intellectual property of our two successful programs to advance Chevrolet’s engine for NASCAR,” they said in a joint statement.

Engines produced by Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing (via ECR Engines) have earned a combined 20 Cup titles and the two teams have totaled 369 Cup wins.

Jeff Andrews, the new executive vice president at Hendrick Motorsports, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” Thursday that discussions about the venture between his team and RCR began two years ago.

“The day was going to come when we really needed to figure out how to get these two programs together,” Andrews said. “A tremendous amount of talent, people and a tremendous amount of equipment and resources between the two programs. How could we do this? How could we take the longstanding heritage between these two companies and get that together to start working on an alliance that truly would produce the ultimate powertrain for Chevrolet NASCAR?”

RCR is headquartered in Welcome, North Carolina and Hendrick’s campus is in Concord, North Carolina.

“I think when you step back and look at it, ultimately you have to get to a point to where, when you have these resources and you have these people, we have to do what’s best for Chevrolet, first and foremost, to continue to push their performance and get them back to the front of the field and get them wins and championships,” Andrews said. “Really, we work together in a very similar fashion. We started two years ago on the aerodynamic side with our groups working very close together and we’re kind of taking somewhat of that template and applying to the engine side in starting this joint alliance.”

Chevrolet last won a Cup title in 2016 when Jimmie Johnson earned his record-tying seventh championship. Since then, Chevy has not had a car reach the championship four.

The Cup Series is in the middle of the Round of 12. The series races Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Of the 12 cars that remain, four are Chevrolets: Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon, Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch.

Chevrolet cars have won six times through 30 races this season. That’s compared to seven wins in all of 2019, four in 2018 and and 10 in 2017.