On a historic day at Dover International Speedway, Alex Bowman gave Monster Mile fans a very familiar sight.
Leading a top-four made up entirely of Hendrick Motorsports cars, Bowman led the final 97 laps and put the No. 48 Chevrolet back in Victory Lane after winning the “Drydene 400” NASCAR Cup Series race.
The 28-year-old from Tucson, Ariz., took over the iconic No. 48 Chevrolet from 11-time Dover race winner Jimmie Johnson in February. Sunday’s run gave Bowman his second victory of the young season and he became the 39th different Cup Series winner at Dover across 103 events.
“I was terrible when I came here for other teams,” Bowman said. “I texted Jimmie and asked how he approaches this place. I just stuck to that and ran the Jimmie Johnson line, tight against the black, super disciplined, super patient.
“We’ve been good here ever since. To win here with the 48 car is special but to win with tips that Jimmie gave me is pretty cool.”
Bowman’s win was just part of a spectacular day for Hendrick Motorsports, which became the first team since 2005 (Roush Racing, Homestead) to sweep the top four spots in a Cup Series event. Kyle Larson placed second, Chase Elliott finished third and William Byron was fourth behind Bowman.
Hendrick Motorsports is also just one win from tying Petty Enterprises for the all-time NASCAR Cup Series lead. Bowman’s victory was the 267th for Hendrick, one behind Petty’s 268.
“Every time you enter a race you’d love to see them go 1-2-3-4,” said team owner Rick Hendrick. “It was probably the longest last 100 laps that I’ve seen in a race. So proud of all the guys and it was a great day for the organization.
“Richard [Petty] is a good friend and he’s the king of the sport. Anytime there’s a record out there you want to break it. I would have told you it was impossible back in 1984 when we started. It’s really hard to do.”
Hendrick Motorsports is already the all-time leading team in Dover International Speedway Cup Series victories with 21. Aside from Johnson’s 11, other Hendrick race winners at Dover include Jeff Gordon (5), Geoff Bodine (1), Ken Schrader (1), Ricky Rudd (1), Elliott (1) and now Bowman.
“We know that [victory] milestone is out in front of us,” said Larson. “[Rick] mentions it almost every time we talk to him. I hope I’m the driver to do it.”
For much of Sunday’s race it appeared that Larson would be the driver who would bring home the win for Hendrick. Larson won the first two stages and a whopping 263 laps overall, but came out of pit road second behind Bowman following a round of yellow-flag pit stops and couldn’t muscle past his teammate the rest of the way.
“I don’t know what we could have done differently after we came out second in pit road,” Larson said. “I’m not disappointed or upset about this second. I feel like there wasn’t anything else I could do.
“All of us [Hendrick] cars were pretty equal. I felt like whoever got to the lead toward the end would end up winning. We would have liked to be one spot better but what a day for Hendrick Motorsports.”
After failing two inspections before the green flag, Elliott was penalized by starting toward the back of the 37-car field. Elliott quickly made his way toward the top of the chart, but was the only one of his teammates not to lead a lap.
“Everyone in our company is really motivated right now to provide fast cars,” Elliott said. “Everybody is pulling in the same direction as well as we have since I’ve been there.”
Among other former Dover winners, Kevin Harvick finished sixth, Martin Truex Jr. struggled after leading 16 early laps to finish 19th and Kyle Busch suffered spark plug trouble and ended up seven laps down in 27th place.
Bowman completed the 400 miles in 3 hours, 19 minutes and 55 seconds, averaging 120.05 mph across the high-banked, one-mile concrete oval. Five drivers exchanged the lead 10 times and 41 laps were run under seven caution flags.
““If we don’t beat [Larson] off pit road we probably don’t beat them in the race,” Bowman said. “My pit crew, I feel like won the race. I appreciate the guys working so hard throughout the week to get better.
“It feels right to put the 48 back in Victory Lane here after so many wins before. Best race track on the schedule in my opinion.”