NASCAR Cup Series

Alex Bowman outduels Larson for Pennzoil 400 triumph

4 Mins read
Credit: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

The NASCAR Cup Series‘ Next Gen car promised to be more difficult to drive to challenge a pilot’s abilities, and Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway did just that. Sin City became Spin City as multiple drivers spun while battling their way in the seventh-generation Cup car. For Alex Bowman, the only spinning he was doing was a victory burnout.

A gamble to take two tyres ahead of overtime proved correct as it placed him alongside Hendrick Motorsports team-mate and defending race winner Kyle Larson on the front row for the restart. The two raced side-by-side for the two laps before Bowman had enough of a run in the final two corners to pull away and win at Vegas for the first time.

Christopher Bell won the pole ahead of Larson. Kyle Busch wrecked in practice and switched to a backup car, while Cole Custer (engine part), Daniel Hemric (transaxle), and Tyler Reddick (steering rack) went to the rear after changing certain components.

Bell led for the only time from the start of the race to the competition caution on lap 30. Ryan Blaney became the new leader until Custer became the first spinner on lap 37. Busch and Justin Haley suffered the same fate shortly after the ensuing restart, followed by Reddick on lap 63. Amid the spin cycle, Bowman took the lead with two laps before the stage conclusion to win ahead of Hendrick Motorsports team-mate William Byron, Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Larson, Blaney, Chase Briscoe, Busch, and Bell.

Michael McDowell elected to stay out between stages, a play that ended in disaster on lap 93 when he got loose on older tyres and caused Briscoe to swerve into Daniel Suárez. Brad Keselowski, also with aged tyres, was the next driver to spin and did so on lap 103 in front of former Team Penske ally Ryan Blaney, ending the latter’s race. Penske and Briscoe’s woes continued thirty laps later when the latter and Austin Cindric spun on their own. Another caution flew on lap 141 for Bell going around.

At the front, Chastain led much of the stage including the final six laps to claim his and Trackhouse Racing Team‘s maiden stage victory. Elliott, Larson, Byron, Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and Bubba Wallace followed. Greg Biffle was the lone driver in the stage to exit the race for reasons outside of spins or wrecks as he retired a fuel pump issue; it was his first Cup retirement at Las Vegas since his first start there in 2004. On the plus side, he was able to lead a lap by briefly staying out under caution after the Keselowski/Blaney accident for his first lap led since the 2016 fall Talladega race and the first for NY Racing Team, the latter of which included its previous iterations.

Despite getting two stage points, Hamlin’s race abruptly ended on lap 220 when he accidentally downshifted while pitting and spun, causing the car to stall. After being the only Cup driver to finish every race in 2021, he has now retired from two of the first three 2022 rounds. His Joe Gibbs Racing team-mates Busch and Truex were more fortunate as they overtook Chastain for the top spot.

With five laps remaining, Erik Jones got loose and slammed into the outside wall exiting turn four before coasting along the apron and spinning up the track. Wallace spun trying to avoid Jones and barely avoided impacting him.

Ahead of overtime, Hendrick drivers Larson, Bowman, and Byron opted to change just right-side tyres which placed them ahead of Busch and others who took four. Running on the inside line, Bowman was next to Larson for the entire lap as they approached the white flag. Although Larson appeared to have the momentum on the backstretch, he could not keep Bowman at bay, and Bowman would instead gain the advantage in turns three and four to clear Larson for the win.

Credit: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

“What a call by (crew chief) Greg Ives and the guys to take two there,” said Bowman. “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.

“Just can’t say enough about these guys. 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.”

Bowman, nicknamed “The Showman” despite his objections, has had an unusual knack for being in the right place at the right time to win races. Of his seven career Cup victories including Las Vegas, five saw him take the lead with less than ten laps remaining, often following a late restart, while only one (Fontana 2020) featured true domination by leading the most laps. Busch, who had to settle for fourth, was vocal over his team radio about the winner as he exclaimed, “The same fucking guy who backs into every fucking win that he ever fucking gets backs into another fucking win.”

Bowman quipped about potentially turning the quote into a t-shirt graphic, an action he took following his win at Martinsville in 2021 after Hamlin called him a “hack”.

In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Hendrick Motorsports pledged to donate $2,000 to a Ukraine relief fund by Samaritan’s Purse for every lap led by the team’s drivers in Sunday’s race, with $102,000 being raised in total as Bowman (sixteen laps), Byron (eight), and Larson (twenty-seven) combined for fifty-one laps.

Race results

11348Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet274Running
225Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet274Running
3181Ross ChastainTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet274Running
43718Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota274Running
51424William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet274Running
62010Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord274Running
778Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet274Running
81219Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota274Running
959Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet274Running
10120Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota274Running
11103Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet274Running
12254Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord274Running
133145Kurt Busch23XI RacingToyota274Running
14622Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord274Running
15297Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet274Running
161921Harrison BurtonWood Brothers RacingFord274Running
172831Justin HaleyKaulig RacingChevrolet274Running
182717Chris BuescherRFK RacingFord274Running
1932Austin CindricTeam PenskeFord274Running
203242Ty DillonPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet274Running
21947Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet274Running
221616Daniel Hemric*Kaulig RacingChevrolet274Running
233038Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsFord274Running
24156Brad KeselowskiRFK RacingFord273Running
251723Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota273Running
263351Cody WareRick Ware RacingFord273Running
272234Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord273Running
283578B.J. McLeodLive Fast MotorsportsFord272Running
293477Josh Bilicki*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet271Running
303615Garrett SmithleyRick Ware RacingFord267Running
312343Erik JonesPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet264Accident
32811Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota219Drivetrain
332441Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord171Engine
342644Greg BiffleNY Racing TeamChevrolet148Fuel Pump
35414Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord135Accident
361112Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord104Accident
372199Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet92Accident
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points
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About author
Justin is a History major at San Jose State University and lifelong racing fan who has worked for The Checkered Flag since 2018. His coverage mainly focuses on NASCAR, the Stadium Super Trucks, and off-road series like Extreme E and SCORE International. He also dabbles in other disciplines such as IndyCar, rallycross, and sports cars.
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