Similar to his first win at Richmond Raceway in April, where did Alex Bowman come from?
Thanks to a great final stop from his crew on lap 304, Bowman was able to get to the front and hold off the dominant car in Larson to score his second victory of the season at Dover International Speedway.
Hendrick Motorsports swept the top four positions and became just the fourth team to do so in the NASCAR Cup Series. It’s the first time a feat like this has occurred since Roush Fenway Racing did it at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2005.
A budding, competitive rivalry between Martin Truex Jr. and Larson carried the opening laps at Dover, which was an encore of the finish at Darlington Raceway last weekend after Larson’s late surge came just short of stunning Truex’s dominant run.
Instead, Larson got the better of Truex prior to the competition caution on lap 35 and that was all she wrote as Larson led the next 82 laps on his way to a fifth stage win this season.
After a lug nut got stuck in a jack for Truex’s crew, he found himself outside the top 10 on the restart following the competition caution and failed to work his way to stage points.
For a fourth time already in 2021, Chase Elliott had to start at the rear for failing pre-race inspection. However, the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet had the speed to work its way into the top 10 after 120 laps to nab a few stage points.
A win and a top-five finish looked to be the momentum shift Kyle Busch needed to solidify his spot as a title contender after a terrible 2020. Well, his string of success sputtered in the early goings as he dropped a cylinder and ran three seconds off-pace for the remainder of stage 1. He did get his car back to peak speed at the start of stage two, but found himself seven laps down in the process.
The second stage began the masterclass of Hendrick as all four of the team’s cars ran in the top four leading up to the break.
Larson swept the stages for the day, but Elliott, William Byron and Alex Bowman paced right behind their teammate.
While tires began wearing on a long run in the final stage, leaders asked when the next cycle of stops would come. The answer was punctual as Aric Almirola cut a tire and hit the outside wall in turns three and four hard. It’s the Stewart-Haas product’s fifth DNF of the season and a disastrous year continues as Almirola came into the race 28th in points and 100 points below the playoff cutline.
A great day on pit road for the No. 48 crew hit its apex as Bowman got out of his stall first in front of Larson to take the lead. He remained out front for six laps until a wreck involving Anthony Alfredo packed the field again.
Cautions breeded cautions late, but it didn’t fret any of the Hendrick cars as they were able to secure the top-four spots in the race.
Bowman had the clean-air advantage over Larson to hold him off and net his fourth-career win.
Byron’s fourth-place finish gives him 11 top-10 finishes in a row and he’s already matched his season high for top five’s that he set in 2019.
Joey Logano rounded out the top five, which snapped a three-race skid outside the top 10.
Kevin Harvick came home sixth, followed by Denny Hamlin in seventh.
Great runs between positions 8-11 as Tyler Reddick earned his sixth top-10 finish of the year and third in the last four races. Unofficially, the run puts him 17 points ahead of the playoff cutline.
Daniel Suarez scored his second top-10 finish with Trackhouse Racing after a ninth-place run, while Cole Custer matched his best finish of the year rounding out the top 10.
It wasn’t a top-10 day for Bubba Wallace and 23XI Racing, but small gains need to be made for the new team and they certainly got that Sunday with an 11th-place finish, the best in the team’s 13-race history.
Kyle Busch ended up 27th and seven laps down after dropping a cylinder early in the race.
The Cup Series will debut at Circuit of the Americas Sunday for the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix.
Unofficial playoff standings: