It was a different Hendrick Motorsports car, but the same results Saturday. Kyle Larson came within one turn of his fourth consecutive points paying win at the first NASCAR Cup doubleheader race at Pocono Raceway, but it was Alex Bowman who was celebrating the victory in the end.
Bowman and Larson had staged an epic battle in the final 15 laps with Larson taking the lead with three laps to go. But on the final lap coming into turn 3 Larson’s Chevy lost a tire and smacked the wall, as Bowman charged past and took the checkered flag.
Kyle Busch who won Stage 1 and led the most laps on the day, 30, was second.
“We were a tick—just a little bit—slower than Larson, and we were able to hold him off,” Busch said of the green-flag run before the final caution for debris on Lap 107. “The 48 (Bowman) held him off forever and finally the 5 (Larson) got by and got away by 20 lengths or so.
“I was just dying tight behind those guys. I just could not do anything in traffic. We were just struggling in traffic. We don’t have what we need to slice through traffic. Everybody’s hindered, but it seems like us a little bit more.”
William Byron third with Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney rounding out the top five spots.
“I hate to win one that way, but hell, yeah, I’ll take it,” Bowman sad. “Man, we kind of gave the lead away. Were on two tires, just got super tight. Tried to hold him off as long as I could.”
Bowman put himself in position inside the top five with a two-tire pit stop on lap 93. A late race caution for debris set up a restart with 15 to go. Bowman chose the inside lane and was able to take the lead.
Larson, who won the last three points paying races, and the All-Star Race, took second and hounded Bowman in the closing laps. He finally took the lead with 3 to go, but on the white flag lap his tire gave up, he lost the lead in turn 3 and a chance for a fourth consecutive win.
Larson was able to carry his momentum the final few feet and finish ninth.
“I don’t know, a little bit laughable just because I can’t believe it,” Larson said. “Hate that we didn’t get another win. Would have been cool to win five in a row. Just wasn’t meant to be I guess today.”
The win was Bowman’s third in the last 10 races and was still good news for the red-hot Hendrick team as it was the sixth consecutive win for the team.
“Can’t say enough about everybody at Team Hendrick right now,” Bowman said. “Body shop, engine shop, chassis shop. Top to bottom, everybody is putting race cars on the racetrack.”
Kurt Busch, who won Stage 2, was sixth followed by Joey Logano, and Kevin Harvick in eighth. Brad Keselowski was tenth.
Perhaps no one was more disappointed than Larson who has series leading five wins. Though he did find a bit of consolation with his teammate winning.
“I was having to work really hard to get by him,” Larson said of Bowman and the epic battle in the closing laps. “I was honestly happy to see him get to the lead because I had pulled away from him so much, that run up before the caution. But then he was really fast out front. Just fast enough I could never get to his inside. He was running low enough, I was a little bit choked down.
“He was starting to get really tight through one. I was able to kind of use that to my advantage, fake him low a little bit, mess his angle up, get him tighter off of one. Was finally able to get by him. Thought we were going to get the win, but we didn’t.”
Larson will have another chance Sunday as NASCAR will hold the second race of the weekend double header. The top 20 finishers will be inverted giving Chris Buescher who grabbed the 20th spot in the final laps, the pole. He’ll be followed by Michael McDowell, Martin Truex Jr., Christohper Bell Aric Almirola and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Larson would have been starting in the top 20, but with the damage to his Chevy sustained Saturday he’ll be in a back up and starting at the rear of the field.
“I guess that’s one thing that’s probably keeping me excited and not depressed,” Larson said. “We get to go back again tomorrow. I’m sure our backup car will be just as good as that one. Feel like we learned a lot about our car today. The track came to us a lot. I think we should be good tomorrow. “
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Pocono Organics CBD 325
Long Pond, Pennsylvania
Saturday, June 26, 2021
- (13) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 130.
- (5) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 130.
- (2) William Byron, Chevrolet, 130.
- (10) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 130.
- (27) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 130.
- (8) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 130.
- (4) Joey Logano, Ford, 130.
- (3) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 130.
- (1) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 130.
- (18) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 130.
- (16) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 130.
- (29) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 130.
- (14) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 130.
- (20) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 130.
- (7) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 130.
- (11) Aric Almirola, Ford, 130.
- (9) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 130.
- (15) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 130.
- (17) Michael McDowell, Ford, 130.
- (25) Chris Buescher, Ford, 130.
- (12) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 130.
- (22) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 130.
- (31) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 130.
- (28) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 130.
- (35) Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 130.
- (24) Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 130.
- (34) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 130.
- (36) James Davison, Chevrolet, 130.
- (30) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 130.
- (32) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 130.
- (37) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 130.
- (21) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 129.
- (6) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 129.
- (33) Josh Bilicki, Ford, 128.
- (38) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 126.
- (23) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 125.
- (19) Ryan Newman, Ford, Accident, 96.
- (26) Cole Custer, Ford, Accident, 13.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 129.453 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 30 Mins, 38 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.683 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 25 laps.
Lead Changes: 14 among 9 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Larson 1-4;W. Byron 5-17;K. Busch 18-26;J. Logano 27-44;R. Chastain 45-54;K. Busch 55-72;K. Busch 73-83;K. Larson 84-91;K. Busch 92;D. Hamlin 93-103;M. McDowell 104-108;K. Busch 109-111;A. Bowman 112-126;K. Larson 127-129;A. Bowman 130.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Busch 3 times for 30 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 18 laps; Alex Bowman 2 times for 16 laps; Kyle Larson 3 times for 15 laps; William Byron 1 time for 13 laps; Kurt Busch 2 times for 12 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 11 laps; Ross Chastain 1 time for 10 laps; Michael McDowell 1 time for 5 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 18,24,5,22,4,11,1,99,3,8
Stage #2 Top Ten: 1,5,22,24,12,11,19,48,18,2
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