Alex Bowman is singing in the rain at Chicago

JOLIET, ILLINOIS - JUNE 30: Alex Bowman, driver of the #88 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Camping World 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on June 30, 2019 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

It didn’t rain on Alex Bowman’s parade Sunday. The 26-year-old Phoenix native scored his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series win retaking the lead with five laps to go from veteran Kyle Larson and holding off Larson for the win in the Camping World 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

The race started 15 minutes early and under threatening skies with Austin Dillon taking the lead from pole. Jimmie Johnson would charge from his fourth place starting spot to take the lead on lap 8. Johnson would hold that lead until lap 12 when lightening from an approaching thunderstorm forced NASCAR to red flag the race.

After a delay of just over 3 hours and under much cooler conditions the race was restarted. As Dillon and Johnson dueled side by side for the lead, Kevin Harvick who had pitted just prior to the green, was able to grab the top spot.

Harvick would hold the lead until lap 72 when he had a right rear tire go down and was forced to pit.  Denny Hamlin would inherit the lead and hold on to win Stage 1.

Harvick retook the lead on the lap 86 restart after the stage but William Byron, who started in the rear of the field due to an engine change, took the lead from Harvick on lap 99. Byron held station until lap 109 when Harvick again seized the point after a restart and won Stage 2.

Larson would take the lead on lap 168 while four laps later Harvick would smack the wall effectively ending his hopes for his first win of the season.

Bowman took the lead for the first time on lap 177 as Larson and Johnson battled for second. In clean air Bowman stretched his lead to the biggest of the day and by lap 209 was leading by 3.4 seconds.

After the final round of green flag pit stops, Bowman cycled back to a 2.3 second lead over Larson.  In the closing laps, however, Larson began to reel in Bowman, and much like he did last year, Larson was able to take the lead with 8 laps to go. Bowman regrouped however and retook the lead from Larson with 6 to go.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver was able to hold off Larson and win by .546 seconds.

“It’s all I’ve wanted my whole life,” Bowman said.  “I feel like this is a lot of validation for a lot of people that said we couldn’t do this.”

The win comes in his 134th Cup start and after three consecutive second place finishes earlier in the season.

“I was just tired of running second,” Bowman joked.  “I don’t want to do that anymore.  I feel like this is the last box, aside from going and chasing a championship, that I needed personally for myself to validate my career.  I feel like obviously there’s a lot more left to accomplish, but this is always what I hear is you haven’t won a race.”

For Larson he was one spot short of redemption. In this race last year, he also took the lead late, and was bumped and passed by Kyle Busch on the last corner of the last lap. He recovered that day to also finish second.

“I could see him struggle when I was getting to him, and when I got by him, I’m like, all right, good, he’s going to be in my dirty air and get loose,” Larson said.  “He could get big runs on me down the straightaways, and I think that allowed him to get that run into 1 and he got to the main side and I got tight, I don’t know if him getting air on my spoiler or something got him tight, but I had to kind of breathe it a little bit, and then we side drafted on the backstretch.

“I wish I would have maybe done some things different into 3 instead of going all the way to wall, maybe chase him to bottom, just try to hang on his quarter, but he might have cleared me anyways down there,” he added. “Cool to see him get the win there.  Would have liked for him to have to wait another week or so, but happy for him. “

Behind Larson Joey Logano was third. Johnson came home fourth, with Brad Keselowski fifth.

Ryan Blaney was sixth, Erik Jones seventh with William Byron, Martin Truex Jr. and pole sitter Dillon rounded out the top 10.  Hamlin had several pit penalties send him back in the field and he finished 15th; Harvick who led a race high 132 laps had to settle for 14th.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series heads back to Daytona for Saturday nights Coke Zero 400.  Live coverage will be on NBC starting at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Camping World 400
Chicagoland Speedway
Joliet, Illinois
Sunday, June 30, 2019

1. (8)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 267.

2. (14)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 267.

3. (19)  Joey Logano, Ford, 267.

4. (4)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 267.

5. (12)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267.

6. (10)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 267.

7. (21)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 267.

8. (11)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 267.

9. (18)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 267.

10. (1)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.

11. (13)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 267.

12. (25)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 267.

13. (5)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 267.

14. (2)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 267.

15. (9)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267.

16. (15)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 267.

17. (16)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 267.

18. (27)  Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 266.

19. (3)  Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 266.

20. (7)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 266.

21. (24)  Paul Menard, Ford, 266.

22. (17)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 266.

23. (23)  David Ragan, Ford, 265.

24. (28)  Daniel Suarez, Ford, 265.

25. (26)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 264.

26. (31)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 264.

27. (29)  Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 264.

28. (22)  Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 264.

29. (38)  Matt Tifft #, Ford, 263.

30. (30)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, 263.

31. (33)  Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 260.

32. (32)  Bayley Currey(i), Ford, 258.

33. (36)  Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 257.

34. (37)  Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 249.

35. (20)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 239.

36. (34)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 238.

37. (6)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, Accident, 172.

38. (35)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, Track Bar, 100.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  140.677 mph.
Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 50 Mins, 49 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .546 Seconds.
Caution Flags:  5 for 25 laps.
Lead Changes:  23 among 13 drivers.
Lap Leaders:   A. Dillon 1-7;J. Johnson 8-17;A. Dillon 18-19;K. Harvick 20-72;D. Hamlin 73;K. Larson 74;D. Suarez 75;E. Jones 76;R. Newman 77;M. McDowell 78;D. Hamlin 79-82;K. Harvick 83-98;W. Byron 99-104;K. Harvick 105;W. Byron 106-108;K. Harvick 109-166;K. Larson 167-170;A. Bowman 171-218;R. Blaney 219;R. Stenhouse Jr. 220-221;K. Harvick 222-225;A. Bowman 226-259;K. Larson 260-261;A. Bowman 262-267.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kevin Harvick 5 times for 132 laps; Alex Bowman 3 times for 88 laps; Jimmie Johnson 1 time for 10 laps; William Byron 2 times for 9 laps; Austin Dillon 2 times for 9 laps; Kyle Larson 3 times for 7 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 5 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 2 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 1 lap; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap; Michael McDowell 1 time for 1 lap; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 1 lap; Ryan Newman 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 11,2,34,48,3,19,4,24,88,1
Stage #2 Top Ten: 4,9,42,88,48,19,24,1,18,10

Greg Engle