Alex Bowman returned Hendrick Motorsports to its winning ways at Richmond after leading the final 10 laps and stealing the win from a previously dominant Denny Hamlin.
Denny Hamlin was flat out the car to beat after winning the first two Stages and leading 207 laps. Long run or short run, Hamlin was dialed in. He battled teammate Martin Truex, Jr. (107 laps led) much of the race while the Penske Ford of Joey Logano (49 laps led) stalked Hamlin all day long. Logano would get out front for a while but Hamlin was always able to get by him or Truex on the restart or after his tires came in.
It was an interesting race later in Stage 2 when a late caution caught many of the leaders after a pit and mixed the field a bit. You wound up with several drivers on old tires in front of the leaders on new tires. This was all good since the leaders had ground down the field to only 9 cars on the lead lap. That is rarely a recipe for a good fan friendly race.
The field had no problem navigating through traffic as leader Brad Keselowski (P14) was hoping for another caution since his car wasn’t as dialed in as Logano’s and a caution, due to Kevin Harvick losing a right rear tire, was the only way he was going to finish in the Top 10. That didn’t happen until near the end of the race and by that time it was too late for Keselowski, Daniel Suarez and others.
The win for Bowman was emotional after the passing of one of his crew last fall. After 9 races we now have had 9 different winners. That may stay the same this week at Talladega. Of course, this is Talladega so all bets are off.
Kyle Busch Watch
Kyle Busch (P8) had worked his way up to the Top 5 but a pit road issue that ended his hope for a win. Other notable cars with pit road penalties were Truex and Bowman. But this finish added to his total of 5 Top 10 finishes. Baby steps…..
Good on ya mate
A big shout out to a few drivers who needed good runs and got them.
Christopher Bell (P4) stayed with it all race long and grabbed another Top 5 finish. This kid is proving to be a standout rookie.
Aric Almirola (P6) needed this badly. A great race to build on for going to Talladega where he won in 2018.
Matt DiBenedetto (P9) is another driver fighting for a job and anything Top 10 related is a welcome event.
Austin Dillon (P10) is quietly amassing a nice season so far. He is lacking a bit of speed but could surprise us with a win this year.
Ross Chastain (P15) and Daniel Suarez (P16) were with Keselowski hoping for a caution to keep them on new tires close to the Top 10 but it wasn’t to be. Nice effort though.
Need I say anything more? Just the track name should send shivers down your spine. We all now Talladega can be a bit of a carp shoot. Missing the Big One could easily be your ticket to a top finish. I expect that we may see another new winner this season but we could also see our first repeat winner. Am I hedging my bets? Nah, it’s just Dega.
Denny Hamlin won the last race here and appears to have a great car with a great crew. This could be his week. Chase Elliott is also looking for his first win and he last won at Dega in 2019.
Ryan Blaney won back-to-back races here in 2019/2020. If he can find some consistency, he could be the first repeat winner in 2021.
Joey Logano won this race last in 2018. As strong as he has been this season, he is another Penske Ford that could be a repeat winner.
Aric Almirola won here in 2018. Could the short track of Richmond catapult him to victory on the high banks of Talladega?
Dark horses this week – I am watching Christopher Bell and William Byron. Both have shown speed this year they could both be contenders for the repeat winner of 2021.
Super dark horse – JH Nemecheck. Two Cup starts here and two Top 10 finishes.
That’s my take, what’s yours? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
(Photo by Jim Fluharty/HHP for Chevy Racing)