Hendrick Wins Again as Bowman Pulls off Surprise Victory at Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 06: Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

It turns out the 2 is better than 4. At least it was for Hendrick Motorsports Sunday. Alex Bowman denied Kyle Larson a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in an overtime finish that capped off a great show by NASCAR’s Next Gen car.

“This thing was so fast all day,” Bowman said. “Never had the track position we needed to show it.”

It was somewhat of a surprise ending that came as the result of a crash by Erik Jones with three laps to go. Jones spun entering Turn 1 and crashed hard into the outside wall, sliding down and making contact with the car of Bubba Wallace.

Prior to that it appeared the story of the day would be an improbable win by Kyle Busch who was in a backup car after crashing in practice on Saturday. Sunday he overcame a starting spot at the rear of the field, a spin, and a problem with the shifter in his Toyota to take the lead with 41 laps to go.

He was in a precarious position the entire time however being hounded by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. Truex would briefly take the top spot on lap 13, but Busch pulled a thrilling crossover move to take it back.

Busch would hold the lead until the Jones crash brought out the race’s 12th and final caution and set up an overtime finish.

The leaders pitted, with three of the four Hendrick cars, Larson, Bowman and William Byron taking only 2 tires with the rest of the leaders taking 4. That put the three Hendrick cars in the top three spots and had Larson and Bowman lined up on the front row.

On the restart, Larson and Bowman pulled away racing side by side and across the line at the white flag. On the final lap coming out of Turn 4 Bowman gained a slight advantage and held on for the win by .178 of a second. Hendrick Motorsports has now won two of the first three races run in 2022.

“Man, what a call by (crew chief) Greg Ives and the guys to take two there,” Bowman said. “Obviously it paid off. Racing Kyle is always fun. Got to race him for a couple wins. We’ve always raced each other super clean and super respectfully.”

Perhaps few were more disappointed that Ross Chastain. The Trackhouse Racing driver led a race high 83 laps, the most he has ever led, won Stage 2, and seemed in control to give his new team its first Cup win. Busch would pass him however on lap 227 and though Chastain stayed near the front, Martin Truex Jr. took over second a few laps later.

At the checkered flag though Chastain was able to hold on and finish third, the highest among those who had taken 4 tires on the final pit stop.

“It took a lot of patience inside the car from our fast racing,” Chastain said. “It’s tough for me to not get too aggressive, a lot of neutral thinking, and Josh Wise, and a book by Trevor Moawad really helped me today. That’s progress.”

Busch was fourth with Byron rounding out the top five.

“Trying to just do what I could to hold the lead there with Truex,” Busch said. “Felt like I inched away finally, we were coming to the white. I don’t know what it was. But anyways, wasn’t meant to be, not our day, see you next week.”

The win was the seventh of Bowman’s Cup career and his first since Martinsville last October.

“Just can’t say enough about these guys,” Bowman, who also won Stage 1, said. “It’s been a pretty awful start to the year, so to come out here and get a win on a last restart deal is pretty special.”

Aric Almirola kept his streak alive as he became the only driver to finish inside the top 10 in all three races this season with a sixth-place finish. Tyler Reddick rebounded from a spin early in the race to finish seventh, Truex was eighth, Chase Elliott ninth and polesitter Christopher Bell rounded out the top 10 after overcoming a spin on lap 143.

Austin Cindric who won the season opening Daytona 500 as a rookie and became the first rookie to lead the points through two races, crashed on lap 136, finished 19th leaving Las Vegas 4th in points.

The Vegas race was the first real test in competition of NASCAR’s Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track, a track that makes up a good portion of the NASCAR Cup schedule. The 267 laps Sunday proved to have great racing throughout the field with no single driver able to stretch a lead out at the front of the field.

NASCAR finishes its Western swing at Phoenix next Sunday. The following week the series will head back East to another 1.5-mile track, Atlanta Motor Speedway which underwent a repave and an angle change in the corners since the series last visited.


Photos: NASCAR at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday March 6, 2022

NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nevada
Sunday, March 6, 2022

1. (13) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 274.

2. (2) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 274.

3. (18) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 274.

4. (37) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 274.

5. (14) William Byron, Chevrolet, 274.

6. (20) Aric Almirola, Ford, 274.

7. (7) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 274.

8. (12) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 274.

9. (5) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 274.

10. (1) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 274.

11. (10) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 274.

12. (25) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 274.

13. (31) Kurt Busch, Toyota, 274.

14. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 274.

15. (29) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 274.

16. (19) Harrison Burton #, Ford, 274.

17. (28) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 274.

18. (27) Chris Buescher, Ford, 274.

19. (3) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 274.

20. (32) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 274.

21. (9) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 274.

22. (16) Daniel Hemric(i), Chevrolet, 274.

23. (30) Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 274.

24. (15) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 273.

25. (17) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 273.

26. (33) Cody Ware, Ford, 273.

27. (22) Michael McDowell, Ford, 273.

28. (35) BJ McLeod, Ford, 272.

29. (34) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 271.

30. (36) Garrett Smithley, Ford, 267.

31. (23) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, Accident, 264.

32. (8) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Drivetrain, 219.

33. (24) Cole Custer, Ford, Engine, 171.

34. (26) Greg Biffle, Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 148.

35. (4) Chase Briscoe, Ford, Accident, 135.

36. (11) Ryan Blaney, Ford, Accident, 104.

37. (21) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, Accident, 92.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 117.522 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 29 Mins, 50 Secs. Margin of Victory: .178 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 12 for 60 laps.
Lead Changes: 23 among 15 drivers.
Lap Leaders: C. Bell 1-32;R. Blaney 33-42;A. Bowman 43-49;D. Hamlin 50-65;K. Busch 66-69;W. Byron 70-77;A. Bowman 78-83;M. McDowell 84-87;B. Keselowski 88-90;D. Hamlin 91-105;K. Busch 106-112;R. Chastain 113-136;*. Biffle 137;K. Larson 138-159;R. Chastain 160-217;K. Larson 218;R. Stenhouse Jr. 219-222;T. Dillon 223;K. Busch 224-225;R. Chastain 226;K. Busch 227-266;M. Truex Jr. 267;K. Larson 268-271;A. Bowman 272-274.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Ross Chastain 3 times for 83 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 49 laps; Christopher Bell 1 time for 32 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 31 laps; Kyle Larson 3 times for 27 laps; Alex Bowman 3 times for 16 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 10 laps; William Byron 1 time for 8 laps; Michael McDowell 1 time for 4 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 4 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 4 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 3 laps; Ty Dillon 1 time for 1 lap; * Greg Biffle 1 time for 1 lap; Martin Truex Jr. 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 48,24,1,11,9,5,12,14,18,20
Stage #2 Top Ten: 1,9,5,24,18,19,22,4,11,23

Greg Engle