Alex Bowman held off Kyle Larson for his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory, leading a terrific performance for Hendrick Motorsports at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday.
Bowman had one of the fastest cars during practice, and the strength of his No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet showed after the race was delayed by a storm. The 26-year-old Bowman had just six top-five finishes in 133 starts on NASCAR’s top series before his banner day on the bumpy 1.5-mile oval.
Larson put together another memorable run a year after he lost an epic last-lap duel with Kyle Busch on the same track. Larson passed Bowman with about seven laps left, but Bowman quickly regained the lead and smartly navigated his way to the victory.
Joey Logano, who entered with a one-point lead over Kyle Busch for the top spot in the series standings, finished third. Jimmie Johnson was fourth, and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske dominated the first part of the Cup season. Logano, Keselowski and Ryan Blaney finished in the top six for Penske at Chicagoland, but it was a difficult day for the top performers at JGR.
Martin Truex Jr. never really threatened and had to settle for ninth after winning last weekend on the road course in California. Kyle Busch had several issues on his way to 22nd.
It was hot and humid when pole-sitter Austin Dillon led the field to the starting line, but thunderstorms quickly rolled in and halted the race after 11 laps. The wind picked up and rain pounded the track after the drivers and crew members retreated to their trailers.
When the race resumed after a delay of more than three hours, it was a completely different situation. The temperature dropped more than 20 degrees, forcing the teams to adapt on the fly after the cars were set up for hot, slick conditions. It also was the series’ first stop at Chicagoland under its overhauled rules package, further complicating matters.
Kevin Harvick and Blaney each had tire trouble about 75 laps in, and Denny Hamlin raced to the Stage 1 win. But Hamlin was penalized for too many over the wall during a pit stop in the last part of the race and finished 15th.