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

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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:

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Camping World to sponsor entire NASCAR race weekend at Chicagoland

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Chicagoland Speedway announced Thursday all three of its June NASCAR races will be sponsored by Camping World, replacing 2018 sponsor Overton’s.

Camping World owns the Overton’s brand.

The three races will be branded the Gander Outdoors Truck Series Camping World 225 (June 28), the Xfinity Series Camping World 300 (June 29) and the Cup Series Camping World 400 (June 30).

Camping World was the entitlement sponsor of the Truck Series from 2009-18. Gander Outdoors, which is also owned by the same company, takes over in 2019.

The Chicagoland weekend also marks the start of NBC’s portion of the Cup and Xfinity Series telecast schedule. The Cup Series race will air on NBCSN.

Front Row Motorsports adds Camping World, Jacob Companies on David Ragan’s car

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david-ragan-jacobsFront Row Motorsports has added Camping World and Jacob Companies as multi-race sponsors on the No. 38 of David Ragan.

Camping World, which also sponsors the Truck Series, will be on the No. 38 for nine races, including the Daytona 500.

Jacob Companies, a design and construction firm, will be sponsor for six races, beginning with the March 19 race at Phoenix Raceway.

The sponsorship of Love’s Travel Stops on the No. 34 of Landon Cassill and unannounced race deals give Front Row its fullest sponsorship schedule entering a race season in the team’s history.

“I’m really proud that companies are seeing the value in working with us,” team owner Bob Jenkins said in a press release. “We have some great partners who’ve been with us for four or five years in a row now, who are clearly seeing success with their programs.”

Front Row Motorsports earned its second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win last year with Chris Buescher at Pocono Raceway. Buescher also gave Front Row Motorsports its first entry in the Cup Series playoff.

NASCAR sponsor says Brian France’s endorsement of Donald Trump ‘created … this spectacle’

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The CEO of the company sponsoring Sunday’s Sprint Cup race raised more questions about NASCAR Chairman Brian France endorsing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, stating France “created … this spectacle.’’

Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam, made the comments Friday on ESPN Radio’s Capital Games show.

Lemonis’ comments came two days after France told The Associated Press he was surprised at the reaction to his endorsement of Trump, admitted he had called some sponsors after appearing at Trump’s Georgia rally and confided he didn’t know all of Trump’s policies.

“It’s typical Brian in my opinion,’’ Lemonis told ESPN Radio. “I’ve seen this happen before. He doesn’t necessarily have all the facts and he picks up a vision and he does it with enthusiasm and exuberance.

“When he says he doesn’t understand the policies, that to me, in itself, is a bit of a problem that he doesn’t understand what people stand for, and he takes time out of his schedule on a brand that I spend millions of dollars to support.’’

Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway is sponsored by Good Sam, a sister company to Camping World, which also sponsors NASCAR’s Truck Series.

Lemonis told Sports Business Daily on March 1 that he disagreed with France’s endorsement of Trump because it’s not good business to potentially alienate customers and employees.

Lemonis, who stars in “The Profit” on CNBC, reiterated those comments in Friday’s interview with ESPN Radio.

He noted that when a CEO endorses a candidate, it “infers that it’s validating what everybody in that organization thinks from the people who enjoy the company’s product, or the people that enjoy their sport in the case of Brian France, or asks them to pick a side and it’s just not the right forum.’’

France was joined on stage at the Feb. 29 Trump rally by NASCAR drivers Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman and David Ragan, along with Hall of Fame member Bill Elliott.

Lemonis questioned the need for such endorsements at all.

“I think that there’s a certain amount of ego that goes into wanting to think that your endorsement is going to add so much credibility to an intelligent voter,’’ Lemonis said when asked by ESPN Radio about Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer endorsing Ohio Gov. John Kasich for president on Thursday.

“I think it’s insulting to think that regular citizens like ourselves do not have the education to think with our minds,’’ Lemonis said.

Since the Georgia rally, Trump has repeatedly said he’s been endorsed by NASCAR, raising another issue for Lemonis.

“When you use a sport like NASCAR, you use a sport like the NFL or the NBA or anything like that where the fans are wildly loyal, and now you’ve essentially given the endorsement of a population that is made up of supporters of lots of different people, that’s a problem.

“Does it surprise me that Donald Trump would say (NASCAR has endorsed him)? I’m not sure that he’s different than any other candidate that would just grab on to something and just make it fact. It’s definitely a problem for me that Brian created this spectacle and had drivers there … and made it seem like NASCAR was out there.’’

Camping World CEO reaffirms commitment despite objection to Brian France’s endorsement

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Camping World Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis reaffirmed his company’s commitment to NASCAR despite not agreeing with Brian France’s decision to endorse Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a Georgia rally on Monday.

Lemonis, whose company has served as title sponsor of NASCAR’s Truck Series since 2009, tweeted shortly after France’s endorsement: “There is no place for politics/any political endorsements in any business. Your customers and employees should have their own mind. #period’’

This follows a letter Lemonis wrote to NASCAR last year that led the sanctioning body to move the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series banquet from the Trump National Doral after comments Trump made about immigrants.

Lemonis told Sports Business Daily on Tuesday that he has no plans to seek an early exit from his company’s Truck series sponsorship. The company signed a seven-year extension in 2014 that will take it through 2022.

“I am not going to give Brian France the credit for him to think that him crossing the line that I just defined is going to affect our support of a sport that has tons of fans and teams,’’ Lemonis told Sports Business Daily.

“I’m not going to give him the credit that his crossing that line would warrant us picking a side, when at the end of the day, our allegiance is to the sport, which is much bigger than Brian France, and the teams and drivers, which is much bigger than Brian France, and to the fans who love the sport, which clearly is much bigger than Brian France.

“Brian France is not NASCAR. NASCAR is made up of the millions of fans who have their own views of the favorite sports teams, drivers, politicians and religion.”

Lemonis said he disagrees with France’s endorsement of Trump because of France’s executive position.

“When you control a business, it is very difficult to make sure that the lines don’t get blurry,’’ said Lemonis, who stars in “The Profit” on CNBC and will debut “The Partner” this summer on the network.

“And you work for constituencies. The two constituencies you work for are your customers and employees. It is not your right to leverage your ability to speak; it’s not your right to leverage the power of access that you have.

“If you run a business or own a business, you have a different sort of access than the rest of the community. I’m not in favor of business owners or CEOs leveraging their disproportionate access to communicate a message that is polarizing or maybe takes away someone’s individual thoughts or impugns your personal opinion on somebody.”

Last year, Lemonis’ told NASCAR that he would not attend the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series banquet if it was still held at a Trump property.

Lemonis, who is from Lebanon, was upset with comments by Trump on the campaign trail last summer and wrote NASCAR: “ … due to recent and ongoing blatantly bigoted and racist comments from Donald Trump in regards to immigrants of the United States, I would like to inform you that I will not, nor will any representative of Camping World, participate or attend in the ceremonial event if it is held at any Trump property.

“Our company will not stand to support any person or organization that associates with such beliefs and we feel strongly about distancing ourselves from any negative and discriminatory comments made against any gender, ethnicity, age group or so forth. I would hope that the entire NASCAR organization would agree with my sentiments.’’