An emotional Alex Bowman could only shake his head and give kudos to his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports crew following a dramatic victory over the hometown hero Denny Hamlin in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway.
Bowman took the lead for the first time all race on a restart with 10 laps remaining and easily pulled away from Hamlin, who had been the day’s most dominant driver. Bowman’s .381-second winning margin earned the 27-year old his first victory of the season, third of his career and first ever on a short track. He is the eighth different race winner in nine NASCAR Cup Series races this season.
“To be honest with you, we were terrible on short runs,” said Bowman, who had to overcome a pit road speeding penalty as well. “We restarted third and I’m like, if we get out of here with a solid top-five we’ll be good. We overcame a lot today.”
“I don’t know if [crew chief] Greg [Ives] pumped the pressures way up or what he did, but that’s more grip than I’ve ever had in a race car at Richmond and it worked out really well.”
To download images from the Toyota Owners 400, click here.
It was an especially tough runner-up finish for Hamlin, considering how strong he’d been all day, and all season. Hamlin, who swept the two stages wins and led a race high 207 of the 400 laps, had to be thinking he may have finally secured his first victory of 2021. He held the race lead taking the green flag for that last restart, only to be passed easily by Bowman.
The second-place finish is the eighth top-five finish in the opening nine races for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver Hamlin – an all-time record for top fives to start the season without a win.
“We just didn’t take off quite as good there at the end,” an obviously disappointed Hamlin said. “I tried to warm it up and do everything that I could – just the 48 (Alex Bowman) had a little more on those last few laps and I couldn’t hold the bottom.
“Once he got the position, we were just shut down there. Great job by this FedEx Ground team. First and foremost, we want to think of all of the families in Indy right now. Awful tragedy to happen there. Our thoughts and prayers are with these names. We will get them. We will keep digging. We are dominating – just have to finish it.”
Penske Racing’s Joey Logano, who led 49 laps and for much of the closing portion of the race looked as he would settle the trophy with Hamlin, instead finished third, followed by Hamlin’s JGR teammates Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr., who led 108 laps. Toyota finished with three in the top five.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola finished sixth – his best effort of the season, followed by Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron, JGR’s Kyle Busch, Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto and Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon to round out the top 10.
The late race caution – and the drama it created – was especially ironic considering most of the event had gone caution free.
Early on it was a duel between the Gibbs teammates and then Logano, who took the battle to Hamlin late.
“The adjustments they made on that final pit stop definitely made it start firing off really well,” Logano said of Bowman. “He started to pay the penalty the last couple laps but he was so far out, it didn’t matter…We led some laps, made the pass on Denny Hamlin. He and I had a lot of fun with it going back and forth.”
“I just hate being that close,” Logano added.
With his runner-up effort Hamlin holds a commanding 81-point lead over Truex and 82-point advantage over Logano in the championship standings.
The series’ next race is the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
2021 NASCAR Season
Richmond Raceway will continue its 75th anniversary celebration over the fall NASCAR Playoff Weekend with three races over two days on Sept. 10-11. The Virginia is for Racing Lovers 150 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race will kickoff the weekend on Friday, Sept. 10. America’s Premier Short Track will host a day-night doubleheader on Saturday, Sept. 11 with the Go Bowling 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at 2:30 p.m. and the Federated Auto Parts 400 Cup Series Playoff race at 7:30 p.m. This will be the 30th anniversary of the fall Cup race being held under the lights at Richmond.
NASCAR tickets are available for purchase via phone at 866-455-7223 or online at richmondraceway.com. Fans can view the full 2021 NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedules and purchase tickets at nascar.com/tickets.
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body for the No. 1 form of motorsports in the United States and owner of 16 of the nation’s major motorsports entertainment facilities. NASCAR consists of three national series (NASCAR Cup Series™, NASCAR Xfinity Series™, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series™), four regional series (ARCA Menards Series, ARCA Menards Series East & West and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour), one local grassroots series (NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series) and three international series (NASCAR Pinty’s Series, NASCAR Peak Mexico Series, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series). The International Motor Sports Association™ (IMSA®) governs the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship™, the premier U.S. sports car series. NASCAR also owns Motor Racing Network, Racing Electronics, and ONE DAYTONA. Based in Daytona Beach, Florida, with offices in eight cities across North America, NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. For more information visit www.NASCAR.com and www.IMSA.com, and follow NASCAR on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (‘NASCAR’).
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Richmond Raceway is America’s Premier Short Track annually hosting two NASCAR race weekends, featuring the NASCAR Cup Series and either the NASCAR Xfinity Series or NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, on the iconic ¾-mile D-shaped oval. Richmond Raceway is a regional leader for events including sports, live music and consumer trade shows. The Richmond Raceway Complex’s 1,100 plus acre multipurpose facility hosts more than 200 live events over 280 event days annually including concerts with top national recording artists at Virginia Credit Union LIVE!, the region’s only covered amphitheater. For more information, visit richmondraceway.com, richmondracewaycomplex.com, or vaculive.com.
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