Photo via Stacy Revere/Getty Images
After a brief weather delay and a nice five-wide send-off to California native Jimmie Johnson, Alex Bowman asserted his dominance to win his second-career Cup Series race in the Auto Club 400 on Sunday afternoon.
The 24-year-old Chevy driver and Tucson, Arizona native collected his second career victory in the Cup Series. His lone victory, before the win today, came last season at Chicagoland on Jun. 30th. The victory at Fontana also marks the first top-10 finish for Bowman this season.
Of the 200 laps raced, Bowman led in 110 of them and finished the race with an 8.9 second lead over runner-up and 2019 Fontana winner Kyle Busch. Coming into today, in four Cup races in the Auto Club, Bowman led only one lap and had an average finish of 22nd.
Through the first stage of the race, Bowman would begin to brew the momentum that would lead to his dominance later in the race. After initially falling to 6th, Bowman would climb back to his initial 3rd place starting position and would battle for the top stage position with Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and pole sitter Clint Bowyer. After the initial round of green-flag pit stops, which saw Ricky Stenhouse Jr., briefly take the lead, Bowman reclaimed it and would claim the Stage 1 victory. It would be Bowman’s first career stage win.
Six-time Fontana winner Jimmie Johnson would then grapple with Bowman’s lead and would restart the race as the leader, followed by Ryan Blaney in the Kobe Bryant-themed Mamba car, Joey Logano, Bowman and Chase Elliott. The restart would bring three-wide action again, with all five drivers jockeying for prime position to make a big run. Christopher Bell, meanwhile, would be forced to go to the garage after lap 81 due to engine troubles, finishing in 38th. An additional caution on lap 93 occurred after sparks flew from Clint Bowyer’s car due to a flat tire.
Blaney would pick up the Stage 2 victory, which would be the Ford driver’s first stage victory since last March. After another jam-packed field on the restart, Johnson would once again maintain a brief lead, but would soon falter to Bowman, who would re-take the lead with 66 to go and would not let go of it. Martin Truex Jr., who ran in second behind Bowman, would eventually be unable to see the Chevy driver due to the vast distance the fast Hendrick car was creating.
Despite green-flag pit lead changes, Bowman would prevail and would hold onto the lead for the remainder of the race, with his car padding his lead to over 10 seconds. Despite a brief push by both Kyle and Kurt Busch, Bowman would cross the finish line to claim the victory.
The Busch Brothers(Kyle and Kurt, respectively), Elliott and Brad Keselowski would round out the top 5. Hamlin, after a poor performance in Las Vegas last weekend, would end in 6th place. Rookie Tyler Reddick would finish just outside the top-10 but would be the No. 8’s best finish since the second Pocono race last season.
After the highest Toyota finished 15th last weekend (Kyle Busch), three Toyotas would finish in the top 10 (Kyle, Hamlin and Erik Jones, who finished 10th). Six-time Fontana winner Johnson would finish 7th, Blaney would finish 19th and Bowyer would finish 23rd.
The West Coast Swing comes to a conclusion next weekend at Phoenix Raceway. The FanShield 500 begins at 3:30 p.m. EST next Sunday on FOX.