JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Alex Bowman is part of the club now. That means no more cracks about coming up empty.
He’s a winner once again.
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. He 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.
The 26-year-old Bowman, who won on the Xfinity Series in 2017, took second at Talladega, Dover and Kansas this year, and he was sick of hearing about the hole on his resume. He said even Chad Knaus, William Byron’s crew chief, had said something to him.
Those days are over.
“I was just tired of running second,” Bowman said. “I don’t want to do that anymore. I feel like this is the last box, aside from going and chasing a championship, that I needed personally for myself to validate my career.”
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.
He was struggling, and we were able to get to him and get by him, but he did a good job,” Larson said. “He did a good job regrouping and figuring out how to make his car drive better.”
Joey Logano, who leads Kyle Busch by 18 points for the top spot in the series standings, finished third. Jimmie Johnson was fourth, and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
It was Hendrick’s second victory of the season after Chase Elliott won at Talladega in April. Led by Bowman and Johnson, Hendrick placed each of its four cars in the top 11.
“So proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports,” Bowman said.