LAS VEGAS — Alex Bowman beat NASCAR champion Kyle Larson in a door-to-door overtime battle at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that sent Hendrick Motorsports to victory lane for the second consecutive week.
The win Sunday was the first of the year for Bowman and seventh of his career. It was the second through three NASCAR races this season for team owner Rick Hendrick. Bowman got his shot at the win when a caution with three laps remaining shifted the race from a pair of Joe Gibbs Racing cars to the Hendrick teammates. Las Vegas native Kyle Busch and teammate Martin Truex Jr. were in a lap-by-lap chess match for the win until the 12th caution ended the stirring duel.
Erik Jones lost control of his car with three laps remaining and crashed when he overcorrected. Bubba Wallace had to swerve hard to avoid drilling Jones’ disabled car and it caused Wallace to slam hard into an interior wall. NASCAR threw the caution to send the race into overtime and the leaders all headed to pit road for a tire change.
The Hendrick trio of Bowman, Larson and William Byron all changed just two tires to get off pit road first through third. Busch, who had gone to the pits as the leader, took four tires and came off pit road in fourth.
Larson, the defending Las Vegas winner and winner last week in California, chose the outside line for the restart with Bowman on his inside. The two were in a drag race over the final two laps and Bowman only got significant as he closed in on the checkered flag.
Bowman, who led three times for 16 laps, beat Larson to the finish line by 0.178 seconds.
“This thing was so fast all day. Never had the track position we needed to show it,” said Bowman, who credited crew chief Greg Ives for the two-tire call. “What a call by Greg Ives. Obviously, it paid off.”
Ross Chastain finished third for TrackHouse Racing and a podium sweep for Chevrolet. Chastain, who had led just 75 laps over 117 previous starts, led a race-high 83 laps.
Busch finished fourth in a backup Toyota after crashing in Saturday morning practice when his tire went flat. The wreck destroyed his car and because backups are in short supply at the start of NASCAR’s rollout of the Next Gen model, the only option JGR had was a “parts car” not meant for competition.
“True testament to everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing,” said Busch after the crews from all four teams helped prepare his car.
“Everybody had a hand in being able to make us go.”
He said he felt like he’d cleared Truex for the win when the caution ended his bid.
“I don’t know what it was,” Busch said. “But anyways, wasn’t meant to be. Not our day. See you next week.”
Byron was fifth to give Hendrick three drivers in the top five and Aric Almirola was sixth and the highest-finishing Ford. Almirola is the only driver to finish inside the top-10 through NASCAR’s first three races of the season.
The win was a strong statement for team owner Hendrick, who joined the weekly competition meeting to outline his expectations for his drivers after Larson and Chase Elliott had an incident in California. Larson didn’t see Elliott on his outside and squeezed him into the wall as the two raced for the lead.
Larson was apologetic and Elliott was furious. Hendrick snuffed out any drama, evidenced by the clean overtime racing for the win between Bowman and Larson.
“Racing Kyle is always fun,” Bowman said. “Got to race him for a couple wins. We’ve always raced each other super clean and super respectfully.”
Chastain’s career was supposed to fast track following his breakthrough 2018 win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in an Xfinity Series car owned by Chip Ganassi.
But a sponsorship collapse dealt him a major setback and it took Chastain three years to make it to the Cup Series. He got one season with Ganassi before Ganassi sold the organization to TrackHouse Racing, which retained Chastain.
Through three races, the new arrangement suits Chastain rather well.
“It’s a dream come true. This is what all the work is for,” Chastain said after finishing third. “This is why we train, done our whole lives and careers, once we realize we can race at this level is to have race cars like that. Couldn’t be more proud of TrackHouse.
SUPPORT FOR UKRAINE
Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports both raised awareness for supporting Ukraine after the country was invaded by Russia.
Richard Childress responded to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s plea, “I don’t need a ride, I need more ammunition,” by donating one million rounds of ammunition to the country.
Childress is on the board of directors for AMMO, Inc., and worked with the company to secure the donation. He was working with a private company to arrange its delivery to help bring awareness to the growing humanitarian crisis and to encourage relief donations.
Team owner Rick Hendrick and sponsor Hendrick Automotive Group pledged $200,000 to Samaritan’s Purse to support disaster assistance in Ukraine. Hendrick also promised an additional $2,000 for every lap led by one of his drivers and they combined for 51 laps, or an additional $102,000.
The Cup Series next goes to Phoenix Raceway, where Truex is the defending race winner. Larson won in November to win his first Cup title.