Bowman wins Pocono in dramatic finish as Larson blows tire
Kyle Larson had another win in hand – and then he handed it over to his teammate Alex Bowman after a flat tire on the final lap at Pocono.
Larson had worked furiously late in the race to get around Bowman, who had grabbed the lead on a restart on Lap 112 of 130.
Larson finally got around Bowman with four laps remaining and appeared to be on his way to his fifth win of the 2021 season when he suddenly slowed exiting Turn 2 of the final lap with a flat left-front tire.
Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet ended up slamming into the Turn 3 wall and Bowman cruised by him to pick up the victory in the first race of a doubleheader at Pocono Raceway.
Bowman’s win is his third of the season and ends a four-race winning streak by Larson, who had won three points races and the All-Star Race over the past month.
"I hate to win one that way, but hell yeah, I'll take it," Bowman said. "Man, we kind of gave the lead away. Were on two tires, just got super-tight. Tried to hold (Larson) off as long as I could. Can't say enough about everybody at Team Hendrick right now, body shop, engine shop, chassis shop. Top to bottom, everybody is putting race cars on the race track.
"We didn't run that good all day, so I'm kind of in shock. I don't know what to say to you guys. Hell yeah, so cool to see all the fans out here. Always like to come to PA. It's a cool place day, beautiful weather, great day for a race. Heck, yeah, I'll take it."
William Byron finished third to complete a 1-2-3 finish by Hendrick Motorsports, Denny Hamlin was fourth and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-five.
Completing the top-10 were Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Larson and Brad Keselowski.
Because Larson will have to move to a backup car, he will have to start from the rear of the field in Sunday’s second race of the doubleheader.
“I guess, disbelief, still,” Larson said. “Laughable just because I can’t believe it. Hate that I didn’t get another win. … I felt something right in the middle of (Turn 2).”
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, most of the lead-lap cars stayed out with Kurt Busch remaining in the lead.
On the restart on Lap 82, Kurt Busch was followed by Larson and Logano.
Larson went to the inside of Kurt Busch in Turn 2 on Lap 84 to reclaim the lead.
On Lap 90, a handful of cars including Martin Truex Jr., Harvick and Christopher Bell made kicked off a round of green-flag stops for their final stops of the race. Harvick took fuel-only on his stop.
Austin Dillon and Matt DiBenedetto were both penalized during their respective stops – Dillon for speeding and DiBenedetto for removing equipment. Both had to serve pass-through penalties on pit road.
DiBenedetto was penalized with a second pass-through after he was caught speeding while serving his first penalty.
With 30 laps to go, nine cars still had to make a final stop, including the leader, Hamlin. Kyle Busch was running first among the cars that pit, in 10th.
Before the cycle of stops could be completed, NASCAR threw a caution on Lap 108 for a large piece of debris located in the middle of Turn 2.
Those cars that still needed to pit did but the others remained on the track. On the restart on Lap 112, Kyle Busch led followed by Larson, Hamlin, Bowman and Byron.
With a big push from Blaney, Bowman powered into the lead on the restart.
Larson moved into the second spot on Lap 114 as Kyle Busch dropped to third.
With 10 laps to go, Bowman maintained a small lead over Larson, who was trying various ways to get around his teammate for the lead. Kyle Busch remained in third.
With four laps to go, Larson finally managed to get around Bowman on the inside to reclaim the lead.
Kurt Busch held off Larson in a two-lap dash to the finish of Stage 2 to collect the stage win.
Logano was third, Byron fourth and Blaney rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, most of the lead-lap cars pit but Logano stayed out and took over the lead. Jones was first off pit road among those who pit with a two-tire stop.
When the race resumed on Lap 30, Logano was followed by Kurt Busch, Tyler Reddick and Ross Chastain.
On Lap 45, Logano and Kurt Busch – who did not pit at the stage break – both made their stops, handing the lead over to Chastain.
With 30 laps remaining in the second stage, Chastain held a nearly 1-second lead over Blaney with Truex third and Bubba Wallace fourth.
On Lap 53, Ryan Newman spun off Turn 1 to bring out a caution.
Most of the lead-lap cars pit with Byron the first off pit road. Kyle Busch stayed out and inherited the lead.
The race resumed on Lap 58 with Kyle Busch followed by Michael McDowell, Kurt Busch and Logano. Byron lined up sixth.
On Lap 60, Corey LaJoie spun off Turn 3 following contact with Anthony Alfredo to bring out another caution.
When the race returned to green on Lap 64, Kyle Busch led the way and was followed by Kurt Busch, McDowell and Logano.
With 10 laps remaining in the stage, Kyle Busch maintained a 1.1-second lead over Kurt Busch with Logano in third.
On Lap 72, Chastain spun in Turn 3 after tagging the wall in Turn 2 to place the race back under caution.
A handful of cars elected to pit, including Kyle Busch. When the race resumed, Kurt Busch led the way followed by Logano, Byron and Larson.
Kyle Busch held off Byron to take the Stage 1 win, his third stage victory of the 2021 season.
Larson was third, Logano fourth and Harvick rounded out the top-five.
Larson started on the pole and led the first four laps until Byron went to his inside and came away with the lead in Turn 2 on Lap 5.
On Lap 9, NASCAR put out a caution for a large piece of debris in the racing groove in Turn 2. The early caution also served as NASCAR’s planned competition caution.
Several cars elected to pit but Byron stayed out and remained in the lead. The race returned to green on Lap 13 with Byron followed by Larson and Logano.
On Lap 14, Cole Custer wrecked on the frontstretch following contact with Keselowski to bring out another caution.
The race returned to green on Lap 18 with Byron still leading the way. Busch powered his way into the lead in Turn 3 after the restart.
A handful of cars elected to pit prior to the end of the stage break, including Bowman, Bell and Aric Almirola.
Custer had to start the race from the rear of the field due to pre-race inspection failures.
|15||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Chevrolet||130||2:30'53.084||14.933||0.362|
|18||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||130||2:30'54.553||16.402||0.710|
|32||21||Matt DiBenedetto||Ford||129||2:31'02.091||1 Lap||1 Lap|
|33||42||Ross Chastain||Chevrolet||129||2:31'08.993||1 Lap||6.902||10|
|34||52||Josh Bilicki||Ford||128||2:30'47.929||2 Laps||1 Lap|
|35||66||Timmy Hill||Toyota||126||2:30'43.565||4 Laps||2 Laps|
|36||7||Corey Lajoie||Chevrolet||125||2:31'06.858||5 Laps||1 Lap|
|37||6||Ryan Newman||Ford||96||2:02'12.363||34 Laps||29 Laps|
|38||41||Cole Custer||Ford||13||15'37.143||117 Laps||83 Laps|
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