Alex Bowman saved his best performance for the last after overtaking Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano on a restart with 12 laps remaining to win the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on Sunday, April 18, for his first NASCAR Cup Series victory of the 2021 season. In addition, Bowman won after rallying from a pit road penalty prior to the final stage.
The starting lineup was based on a performance metric formula, weighing the driver’s and owner’s results from a previous Cup event, the owner points position and the fastest lap recorded from a previous Cup race. With that, Martin Truex Jr., winner of last week’s Cup event at Martinsville Speedway, started on pole position and was joined on the front row with Denny Hamlin, Truex’s teammate and the regular-season points leader.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Truex jumped ahead with an early advantage. He was followed by Chase Elliott and Joey Logano while Hamlin, the first car on the outside lane, dropped back to fourth.
Entering Turn 1, Logano slipped up wide and Hamlin was able to move up to third place entering Turn 3. At the front, though, Truex led the first lap over Elliott.
By Lap 10, Truex was out in front by more than six-tenths of a second over teammate Hamlin, with Logano, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney in the top five. Kevin Harvick was in sixth followed by Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, William Byron and Austin Dillon.
By Lap 25, Truex stabilized his early advantage by nearly eight-tenths of a second over Hamlin while Blaney, teammate Logano and Elliott remained in the top five. Harvick continued to run in sixth followed by Larson, Bell, Austin Dillon and Byron.
When the competition caution flew on Lap 30, Truex was leading by nearly a second over teammate Hamlin. By then, names like Tyler Reddick, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Bubba Wallace and Matt DiBenedetto were in the top 15. In addition, Alex Bowman was in 17th, Aric Almirola was in 19th ahead of teammate Cole Custer, Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman were in 21st and 22nd, rookie Chase Briscoe was in 24th behind Michael McDowell, Daniel Suarez was in 28th behind Austin Cindric and Erik Jones was in 29th.
Under the competition caution, the leaders pitted and Hamlin emerged with the lead following his four-tire service followed by teammate Truex, Blaney, Logano and Elliott. Larson, who came into pit road running in the top 10, dropped all the way back to 18th after receiving a packer on his car during his service.
When the race restarted on Lap 37, Hamlin, this time around, prevailed on the outside lane to retain the lead while Logano moved up to second place over Truex. Behind, Byron moved his No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE into fourth place followed by Blaney while Elliott and Bell battled for sixth.
By Lap 50, Hamlin was leading by more than a second over Logano while Truex, Byron and Blaney stabilized themselves in the top five. Bell was in sixth followed by Elliott, Keselowski, Austin Dillon and Harvick.
Through the first 65 laps of the event, Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry continued to lead by more than a second over Logano’s No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang. Truex’s No. 19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry was in third followed by Byron and Blaney. Bell, racing in his No. 20 SiriusXM Toyota Camry, was in sixth followed by Austin Dillon, Keselowski, Harvick and Alex Bowman. Elliott, meanwhile, had fallen back to 11th in front of Kyle Busch while Larson was mired back in 21st place and in between Ryan Newman and Austin Cindric.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 80, Hamlin was scored the leader as he achieved his fourth stage victory of the season. Truex prevailed in a late battle over Logano to settle in second followed by Byron and Blaney. Bell, Bowman, Austin Dillon, Keselowski and Harvick were scored in the top 10. By then, 29 of the 38 competitors were scored on the lead lap.
Under the stage break, the leaders returned to pit road and Hamlin, Truex, Logano, Byron and Blaney.
The second stage started on Lap 90 with teammates Hamlin and Truex on the front row. At the start, Hamlin retained the lead following a strong start while Truex retained second place ahead of Logano and Blaney. Meanwhile, Bowman started to challenge teammate Byron for a spot in the top five.
By Lap 100, Hamlin continued to lead by a narrow margin over teammate Truex, who started to pressure his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate for the top spot.
Four laps later and following an intense battle with his teammate, Truex returned to the lead following a pass through Turns 2 and 3. By then, Logano continued to run in third place followed by Bowman while Harvick cracked the top five.
By Lap 110, Truex started to stretch his advantage as he was less than a second ahead of teammate Hamlin. Logano and Bowman battled for third place followed by Harvick, Byron, Blaney, Keselowski, Bell and Kyle Busch. Meanwhile, Kurt Busch was in 13th behind teammate Ross Chastain, Austin Dillon and Elliott were in 15th and 16th, Larson was in 18th in front of Reddick and Bubba Wallace was in 20th ahead of Briscoe, Cindric and Newman.
Through the first 125 laps of the event, Truex continued to lead by less than half a second over teammate Hamlin. Logano stabilized himself in third place followed by Bowman’s No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE and Harvick’s No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang.
By Lap 135, green flag pit stops started as Harvick pitted along with Kyle Busch, Chris Buescher, leader Truex, Hamlin, Bell, Briscoe, Cole Custer, Logano, Byron, Kurt Busch, Chastain, Wallace, Larson and others.
In the midst of the pit stops, the caution flew on Lap 140 when a tap from Cindric sent Newman spinning in Turn 3.
Under caution, some like Austin Dillon, teammate Reddick, Brad Keselowski, DiBenedetto, Corey LaJoie, Daniel Suarez and others that had not yet pitted under green pitted.
With the field cycling back under caution and some taking the wave around, Harvick emerged with the lead, where he was set to restart alongside Truex. By then, 20 competitors were scored on the lead lap while names like Larson, Wallace, Briscoe, Erik Jones, Cindric, Buescher, Custer, McDowell, Newman and others were pinned a lap behind.
When the race restarted on Lap 147, Truex rocketed away from Harvick to reassume the lead. Hamlin muscled his way into second place, thus dropping Harvick to third and with Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Logano trailing behind.
By Lap 160, Truex was out in front by a second over teammate Hamlin while Harvick, Logano and Keselowski continued to run in the top five. Reddick was in sixth followed by Bowman, DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon and Suarez. LaJoie was in 11th followed by Bell, Kyle Busch, Byron and Kurt Busch.
Through the first 175 laps of the event, Truex’s advantage over teammate Hamlin decreased to nearly half a second, though the former remained out in front.
Nearly 10 laps later, a second round of pit stops under green commenced as the leaders Truex and Hamlin pitted. Soon, Austin Dillon made the turn to pit road along with Bowman, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Corey LaJoie, Elliott, Suarez, Larson, Logano, Buescher, Briscoe and others.
By Lap 193, Keselowski, who has yet to pit, was leading followed by Kurt Busch and Blaney while Hamlin, the first competitor with fresh tires, was in fourth ahead of teammate Truex. Logano was in sixth while everyone else behind, starting with seventh-place Bowman, were a lap behind.
On Lap 207, Hamlin utilized the fresh tires to his advantage as he overtook Keselowski for the lead. Shortly after, Truex moved into second place followed by Logano as Keselowski slipped back to fourth. Prior to this, Kurt Busch and Blaney pitted.
By Lap 225, Hamlin, who was encountering lapped traffic, including Elliott, was ahead by less than half a second over teammate Truex followed by Logano, Bowman and Harvick.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 235, Hamlin was able to navigate his way through the lapped traffic to claim his fifth stage victory of the season. Teammate Truex finished second followed by Logano, Bowman, Harvick, DiBenedetto, Kyle Busch, Byron, Bell and Almirola. By then, Elliott, who was in 12th, was able to remain as the first competitor scored a lap behind, thus giving him the free pass ticket for the caution. The result left names like Reddick, Kurt Busch, Suarez, Keselowski and others pinned a lap behind.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Hamlin retained the lead following another stellar service from his crew. Teammate Truex, Logano, Harvick, Kyle Busch and Byron. During the pit stops, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was panelized for equipment interference. In addition, Bowman was sent to the rear of the field due to an uncontrolled tire violation.
With 153 laps remaining, the final stage started as JGR’s Hamlin and Truex led the field on the front row. At the start, Hamlin retained the lead followed by Logano and Truex while teammate Kyle Busch started to challenge his way to the front while running in fourth.
Under the final 150 laps, Logano issued a challenge on Hamlin for the race lead. Though he was able to draw himself even with Hamlin’s car, he was unable to pull ahead nor clear Hamlin as Hamlin retained the top spot.
Shortly after, the battle for the lead between Hamlin and Logano became a three-man battle for the lead as Truex joined the party.
With 135 laps remaining, Hamlin remained as the leader by less than half a second over Logano and a second over Truex. Kyle Busch, the third JGR competitor, remained in fourth place while trailing the leaders by more than two seconds while Harvick was back in fifth place, trailing by three seconds. Matt DiBenedetto, meanwhile, was in sixth followed by Bell, Byron, Almirola and Austin Dillon.
With 110 laps remaining, Hamlin stabilized his advantage as he was leading by more than a second over Logano and more than two seconds over Truex.
Not long after, another round of pit stops under green commenced as Suarez pitted along with Austin Dillon, Bowman, Reddick, the Busch brothers, Almirola, DiBenedetto and others. Leader Hamlin also pitted followed by Truex.
During the pit stops, disaster struck for Truex, who was caught speeding on pit road during his service and was forced to serve a drive-through penalty on pit road.
Down to the final 100 laps of the event, Hamlin was leading by nearly two seconds over Logano. Kyle Busch was in third followed by Harvick and Bell. Byron, teammate Bowman, Almirola, Austin Dillon and DiBenedetto were in the top 10. Truex, following his pit stop penalty, was in 12th place, the final car scored on the lead lap.
With 75 laps remaining, Hamlin stabilized himself as the leader by nearly half a second over Logano. Kyle Busch, racing in his No. 18 M&M’s Red Nose Day Toyota Camry, continued to run in third place followed by teammate Bell and Harvick. Truex, meanwhile, was in 10th place while Chase Elliott was back as the final car on the lead lap in 12th place.
Under the final 70 laps of the event, the battle for the lead started to heat up as Hamlin had Logano closing in on him for the lead as both encountered lapped traffic.
Five laps later, Logano emerged with the lead over Hamlin. By then, Elliott was lapped along with Austin Dillon.
Under the final 60 laps of the event, pit stops under green occurred as names like Byron, Bowman, Elliott, Jones, Logano, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Harvick, Keselowski, Truex and others pitted. Earlier, Byron tried to enter pit road but he was forced to circle around the track another lap after failing to slow his car prior to the pit road entrance.
Following the pit stops, Kyle Busch was penalized for a commitment line violation and was forced to serve a pass-through penalty through pit road.
With 50 laps remaining, Logano was leading by more than a second over Hamlin followed by Bell, Bowman and Byron. Harvick, Almirola, Truex and DiBenedetto were running sixth through ninth. Kyle Busch, following his late pit road penalty, was back in 10th place and trapped a lap behind.
Under the final 35 laps of the event, Logano, who was navigating his way through lapped traffic, was still ahead by nearly eight-tenths of a second over Hamlin. Bell was in third place and trailing the two leaders by nearly 13 seconds. Bowman was in fourth and Harvick was in fifth.
With the laps winding down, the battle for the lead started to heat up as Hamlin closed back in on Logano’s rear bumper for the lead. He then started to challenge Logano on the inside lane, with Logano fighting back on the outside lane. Way behind the leaders, Bowman started to catch Bell for third place.
Then with 20 lap remaining and the battle for the lead between Logano and Hamlin heating up, the caution flew when a cut right-rear tire sent Harvick sliding into the Turn 1 outside wall, where he slapped the wall and sustained significant rear end damage.
Under caution, the leaders pitted and Hamlin reassumed the lead following another stellar service from his pit crew. Logano exited pit road in second place followed by Bowman, Bell and Almirola.
With 12 laps remaining, the race restarted under green. At the start, Hamlin took off with the lead with a strong start while Bowman challenged Logano for the runner-up spot.
The following lap, Bowman took over the runner-up spot over Logano, but he was not done as he immediately challenged Hamlin for the race lead on the inside lane.
Following a battle beneath Hamlin’s Toyota, Bowman emerged with the lead with 10 laps remaining following a power move in Turn 1.
With five laps remaining, Bowman was leading by seven-tenths of a second over Hamlin. Logano was back in third while Almirola and Bell were in the top five. Behind, Truex worked his way up to sixth place followed by Byron, Kyle Busch, DiBenedetto and Austin Dillon.
With the leaders starting to catch a bevy of lapped traffic, Bowman continued to lead while Hamlin was trying to close back in on Bowman’s No. 48 Chevrolet for the lead. Despite cutting the deficit down to nearly four-tenths of a second, it was too little, too late for Hamlin and Logano as Bowman came back around to Turn 4 in the midst of the traffic and claim the checkered flag by 0.381 seconds for the win.
While Bowman achieved his third NASCAR Cup Series career win and first of the 2021 season, the Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 car returned to Victory Lane since June 2017 at Dover International Speedway made by Jimmie Johnson. In addition, Hendrick Motorsports achieved its first victory at Richmond Raceway since September 2008 and its 266th Cup career victory as Bowman became the eighth different winner through the first nine events of the 2021 Cup season.
During his interview, Bowman, who won for the first time since March 2020 at Auto Club Speedway, dedicated his Richmond win to William “Rowdy” Harrell, a Hendrick Motorsports’ pit crew member who died along with his wife Blakley in a car accident in the Florida Keys last November.
“[Crew chief] Greg Ives and all the guys, they have to deal with me at short tracks and I drive these places really wrong,” Bowman said on FOX. “We kind of instead of trying to make me figure it out, we went to work on getting the race car where I needed it to be. Greg has done such an amazing job at making that happen…This one is for Rowdy and his family. Miss him and Blakley every day. Just means the world to be able to win for Ally. It’s definitely emotional, obviously, with how hard the off-season was on us. Appreciative for the opportunity and we have more races to win this year.”
“To be honest with you, we were terrible on short runs,” Bowman added. “We restarted third and I’m like man, if we get out of here with a solid top-five, we’ll be good. We’ve overcome a lot today. I don’t know if Greg pumped the pressures way up or what he did, but that’s more grip than I’ve ever had in a race car at Richmond and it worked out really well. Getting to race a guy like Denny at a place that this is really cool. I feel like we raced each other really clean, so I’m appreciative of that. It means a lot.”
Hamlin, who led a race-high 207 laps, settled in second place for his eighth top-five result through the first nine races of the season, though he did not claim his first victory of the season, while Logano, who led 49 laps and was originally in position of claiming his second victory of the season, finished third.
“We just didn’t take off quite as good there at the end,” Hamlin said. “I tried to warm it up and do everything that I could, just [Bowman] had a little more on those last few laps and I couldn’t hold the bottom. Once he got the position, we were just shut down there. Great job by this FedEx Ground team…We will keep digging. We are dominating, just have to finish it.”
Bell finished in fourth place for his second top-five result of the season while Truex settled in fifth place following his pit road penalty.
Almirola, Byron, Kyle Busch, DiBenedetto and Austin Dillon finished in the top 10 as only 14 of the 38 starters finished on the lead lap.
Elliott finished 12th, Keselowski settled in 14th, Suarez finished 16th, Larson crossed the line in 18th, Harvick dropped back to 24th behind teammates Briscoe and Custer, Bubba Wallace finished 26th and Newman fell back to 30th.
There were 20 lead changes for six different leaders. The race featured five cautions for 39 laps.
With his runner-up result, Hamlin continues to lead the regular-season standings by 81 points over teammate Truex, 82 over Logano, 124 over Byron, 130 over Blaney and 135 over Larson.
1. Alex Bowman, 10 laps led
2. Denny Hamlin, 207 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner
3. Joey Logano, 49 laps led
4. Christopher Bell
5. Martin Truex Jr., 107 laps led
6. Aric Almirola
7. William Byron
8. Kyle Busch, one lap led
9. Matt DiBenedetto
10. Austin Dillon, one lap led
11. Ryan Blaney
12. Chase Elliott
13. Kurt Busch
14. Brad Keselowski, 25 laps led
15. Ross Chastain, one lap down
16. Daniel Suarez, one lap down
17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., one lap down
18. Kyle Larson, two laps down
19. Erik Jones, two laps down
20. Tyler Reddick, two laps down
21. Corey LaJoie, two laps down
22. Chase Briscoe, two laps down
23. Cole Custer, two laps down
24. Kevin Harvick, three laps down
25. Chris Buescher, three laps down
26. Bubba Wallace, three laps down
27. Michael McDowell, four laps down
28. Austin Cindric, four laps down
29. Ryan Preece, four laps down
30. Ryan Newman, five laps down
31. Anthony Alfredo, five laps down
32. B.J. McLeod, seven laps down
33. James Davison, 10 laps down
34. Quin Houff, 10 laps down
35. Garrett Smithley, 11 laps down
36. Cody Ware, 15 laps down
37. Josh Bilicki, 16 laps down
38. Justin Haley – OUT, Engine
Next on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is Talladega Superspeedway, the first of two annual visits to the superspeedway venue for the series this season, with the first event to occur on Sunday, April 25, at 2 p.m. ET on FOX.