Bowman utilizes pit strategy to win in overtime at Las Vegas

Seizing an opportunity with a late two-tire pit strategy and rallying from an early pit road penalty, Alex Bowman prevailed in an overtime shootout against teammate Kyle Larson to win the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 6, and capture his first NASCAR Cup Series victory of the 2022 season.

The 28-year-old native from Tucson, Arizona, led three times for 16 laps, including the final three, as he dueled and fended off teammate Larson entering the final turn on the final lap to grab the unlikeliest of victories following a late turn of events, where a late multi-car incident spoiled Kyle Busch’s opportunity in winning at his home track.

With on-track qualifying determining the starting lineup on Saturday, Christopher Bell captured his first NASCAR Cup Series career pole with a pole-winning lap at 182.673 mph in 29.561 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Kyle Larson, the reigning Cup Series champion and winner of last weekend’s event at Auto Club Speedway who posted a qualifying speed at 182.014 mph in 29.668 seconds.

Prior to the event, Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick and Daniel Hemric dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments to their respective machines along with Kyle Busch, who competed in a backup car after wrecking his primary car during Saturday’s practice session.

When the green flag waved and the race started, Bell took off with an early advantage while rookie Austin Cindric challenged Larson for the runner-up spot followed by Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe. When the field returned to the start/finish line, Bell led the first lap as Larson managed to clear Cindric to retain second entering the first two turns.

With the field engaged in early, competitive racing around the circuit through the first five laps, Bell was leading by more than a second over Larson while Briscoe, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin were in the top five. Meanwhile, Cindric had fallen back to ninth place.

By Lap 10, Bell extended his advantage to nearly two seconds over Larson followed by Logano, Hamlin and Ryan Blaney. Briscoe, Alex Bowman, Cindric, William Byron and Ross Chastain were in the top 10 ahead of Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Michael McDowell.

Ten laps later, Bell continued to lead by more than two seconds over Hamlin, who made his No. 11 FedEx Toyota TRD Camry into the runner-up spot followed by Logano and Blaney while Larson had fallen back to fifth place. 

When the competition caution flew on Lap 30, Bell remained as the leader by more than two seconds over teammate Hamlin and Blaney, both of whom were engaged in a tight battle for the runner-up spot. Teammates Bowman and Larson were in the top five followed by Truex, Logano, Byron, Briscoe and Chastain. By then, Elliott and Cindric were in 11th and 12th, Kevin Harvick was in 14th, Brad Keselowski was in 16th ahead of Reddick, Kyle Busch was up in 18th area of Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Kurt Busch and rookie Harrison Burton, Austin Dillon was in 26th, Aric Almirola was in 29th and Bubba Wallace was in 31st.

Under the competition caution, the leaders pitted for service and Blaney exited with the top spot ahead of Hamlin, Bell, Bowman, Chastain and the field. Following the pit stops, Larson pitted for a second time to address loose lug nuts along with Kyle Busch, who had a transmission issue.

When the race restarted under green on Lap 35, Blaney battled against Hamlin before maintaining the lead as Alex Bowman joined the party and overtook Hamlin for the runner-up spot. Soon after, a three-car battle ensued between Blaney, Bowman and Hamlin as Bowman started to challenge Blaney for the top spot. 

Then on Lap 37, the caution flew when Cole Custer spun his No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang in Turn 2.

Five laps later, the race restarted under green. At the start, Blaney and Bowman engaged in a side-by-side battle in front of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Hamlin and Truex. Shortly after and with the field stacking up, the caution returned when Austin Dillon made contact with Justin Haley through Turns 1 and 2, which sent both competitors sideways as Kyle Busch also got sideways after getting hit by Hemric. At the moment of caution, Bowman emerged ahead of Blaney to take the lead.

Under caution and while pit road was closed for the field, Hemric pitted for the third time of the day with the driver reporting brake issues to his No. 16 South Point Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. When pit road opened, Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon pitted after both flat-spotted their tires. 

When the race restarted under green on Lap 47, Bowman and Blaney battled dead even for the lead until Bowman managed to pull ahead entering Turn 3. Behind, teammates Truex and Hamlin battled for third and Byron battled for a spot in the top five as the field fanned out to multiple lanes. 

Then on Lap 49, Bowman got his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 loose entering the backstretch, which allowed Hamlin to take the lead followed by Blaney, who got loose entering Turn 3, as Bowman fell back to third. Behind, Byron moved his No. 24 AXALTA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 into fourth place followed by Truex and Chastain.

Through the first 60 laps of the event, Hamlin was leading by more than a second over Blaney while Truex, Bowman and Byron were in the top five. Chastain, Christopher Bell, Elliott, Larson and Kurt Busch were in the top 10 followed by Harvick, Logano, Briscoe, Erik Jones and Cindric.

Three laps later, the caution flew when Reddick spun his No. 8 Bet MGM Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 off of Turn 4 and through the frontstretch grass as his car briefly came off the ground. Under caution, nearly the entire field returned to pit road for service while Kurt Busch, Corey LaJoie, Custer, Josh Bilicki and Cody Ware remained on the track. During the pit stops, Truex was penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation.

When the race restarted under green on Lap 68, Kurt Busch maintained the lead, but was quickly pursued and challenged by Byron for the lead. Then on Lap 70, Byron emerged with the lead on four fresh tires followed by teammate Bowman.

By Lap 75, Byron was leading by less than four-tenths of a second over teammate Bowman while teammate Elliott trailed by more than a second. Chastain and Hamlin were in the top five followed by Larson, Blaney, Briscoe, Harvick and Bell. 

Two laps later, however, Bowman reassumed the lead after overtaking his teammate Byron for the top spot. Behind, Chastain started to challenge Elliott for third place. 

When the first stage concluded on Lap 80, Bowman claimed his first stage victory of the season. Teammate Byron settled in second place followed by Chastain, Hamlin, Elliott, Larson, Blaney, Briscoe, Kyle Busch and Bell. Following the first stage, Kyle Busch ran into Briscoe’s rear bumper to express his displeasure stemming from his battle with Briscoe prior to the stage’s conclusion.

Under the stage break, nearly the entire field returned to pit road for service and Brad Keselowski emerged with the lead following a two-tire pit stop followed by Hamlin, Elliott, Bowman and Cindric, all of whom had four tires changed to their respective machines. Back on the track, Michael McDowell remained on the track followed by Josh Bilicki and BJ McLeod before the latter two pitted.

The second stage started on Lap 87 as McDowell and Keselowski occupied the front row. At the start, Keselowski managed to fend off McDowell, Elliott and Hamlin to lead by a narrow margin before Chastain joined the party during the following lap. With Keselowski clearing the field, Hamlin moved to second followed by Chastain and Bowman while McDowell started to drift to the back. 

Approaching Lap 91, Hamlin utilized the outside lane and four fresh tires to his advantage as he took the lead. Soon after, Bowman and Chastain overtook Keselowski for spots in the top three.

Then during the following lap, the caution flew when Briscoe got loose as McDowell slid up in front of him, which resulted in Briscoe clipping Daniel Suarez and sending Suarez’s No. 99 CommScope Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 hard into the frontstretch wall and sliding sideways as his race came to an end.

Under caution, some like Almirola, Austin Dillon, McDowell, Briscoe and Corey LaJoie pitted while the rest led by Hamlin remained on the track.

When the race restarted under green on Lap 97, Hamlin retained the lead following a push from Chastain on the inside lane as Chastain moved into second place. Behind, teammates, Byron and Bowman battled for third place while Keselowski maintained fifth ahead of Kyle Busch, Elliott and Larson. 

At the Lap 100 mark, Hamlin was leading by less than four-tenths of a second over Chastain followed by Byron and Bowman while Kyle Busch emerged in the top five. Behind, Truex and Larson battled for sixth while Keselowski was back in eighth ahead of Blaney and Erik Jones.

Then on Lap 103, the caution flew when Keselowski, who was back in eighth place, got loose and spun entering Turn 4. He was then hit by ex-teammate Blaney’s No. 12 Menards/Pennzoil Ford Mustang as Keselowski’s No. 6 Fastenal Ford Mustang continued to spin in a series of circles across the frontstretch, though he was dodged by the field. The incident terminated Blaney’s strong run while Keselowski continued.

Under caution, the majority of the field led by Hamlin pitted while the rest led by Kyle Busch remained on the track.

On Lap 109, the race restarted under green. At the start, Kyle Busch maintained the lead followed by Aric Almirola, Chastain and Hamlin while Austin Dillon was fading with no fresh tires. Meanwhile, Larson issued a challenge for a spot in the top five.

During the following two laps, Kyle Busch remained in the lead as Chastain and Larson started to challenge Busch for the top spot. Then on Lap 113, Chastain moved his No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to the front as Larson followed suit. 

A few laps later, Larson got loose in Turn 3 while battling Chastain for the lead as he slipped out of the top five. 

By Lap 120, Chastain was leading by nearly eight-tenths of a second over Hamlin while Bowman, Larson and Truex were in the top five. Kyle Busch was back in sixth ahead of Byron, Bell, Elliott and Harvick while Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Logano, Bubba Wallace and Briscoe were in the top 15. 

Ten laps later, Chastain continued to lead by more than three-tenths of a second over Hamlin while Larson, Bowman and Bell were scored in the top five. By then, Kyle Busch was back in eighth place ahead of Elliott and Harvick.

Just past the halfway mark on Lap 135, the caution flew when Briscoe got loose and spun in Turn 3 as he was narrowly dodged by rookie Harrison Burton when his car rolled back to the apron. At the same time, Cindric spun at the exact turn after getting hit by Almirola. Both managed to pit their respective cars, but Briscoe eventually retired in the garage.

Under caution, the field pitted and Larson exited with the top spot followed by Chastain, Bell, Elliott and Kyle Busch. During the pit stops, Hamlin ran over his air hose, In addition, Bowman was penalized for an equipment interference when a tire rolled into Cody Ware’s pit box,

When the race restarted on Lap 139, Larson received a push from Chastain to retain the lead while Bell battled against Elliott and Kyle Busch for third place. 

A few laps later, the caution flew when Bell got loose and spun his No. 20 DeWalt Toyota TRD Camry through the backstretch. Behind him, Harrison Burton also spun in his No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang.

Under caution, Burton along with McLeod and Bilicki pitted while the rest led by Larson remained on the track.

When the race restarted on Lap 147, teammates Larson and Elliott battled dead even for the lead followed by Chastain, Kyle Busch, Truex and Byron.

During the following lap, Larson managed to clear the field to retain the lead while Chastain challenged Elliott for the runner-up spot. 

By Lap 155 and with the laps in the second stage dwindling, Larson was out in front by less than two-tenths of a second over Chastain while third-place Elliott trailed by less than a second. Behind, Kyle Busch and Byron battle for fourth place in front of Truex while Logano, Harvick, Bubba Wallace and Hamlin were in the top 10.

Then on Lap 160, Chastain emerged with the top spot following a fierce battle with Larson, though Larson kept Chastain within his sights. Soon after, Elliott started to close in on teammate Larson for the runner-up spot.

When the second stage concluded on Lap 165, the No. 1 ACM/Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 piloted by Chastain retained the No. 1 spot and claimed the stage victory. Elliott raced his way into second place followed by Larson, Byron, Kyle Busch, Truex, Logano, Harvick, Hamlin and Wallace. By then, 30 of the 37 starters were scored on the lead lap.

Under the stage break, the leaders peeled to pit road for service and Chastain retained the top spot after exiting with the lead followed by Kyle Busch, Larson, Elliott and Truex.

Prior to the start of the final stage, Cole Custer stalled his car in Turn 4 and eventually retired due to an engine failure and with smoke brewing beneath his car.

With 93 laps remaining, the final stage started under green. At the start, Chastain and Kyle Busch battled for three full laps until Chastain managed to fend off a ferocious battle against Busch to retain the lead. 

Soon after, Chastain was out in front by nearly half a second over Kyle Busch while Elliott, Larson and Logano were in the top five. 

Down to the final 75 laps of the event, Chastain stabilized his advantage to eight-tenths of a second over Kyle Busch while Elliott and Truex battled for third place. Behind, Larson was in fifth ahead of teammates Bowman and Byron while Hamlin, Logano and Reddick were in the top 10.

Fifteen laps later, Chastain continued to lead by more than eight-tenths of a second over Kyle Busch while third-place Truex trailed by less than three seconds. Meanwhile, Bowman was in fourth while Larson, who was reporting a vibration to his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, was in fifth. Hamlin was in sixth followed by Byron, Reddick, Elliott and Logano.

Approaching the final 50 laps of the event, green flag pit stops commenced as Austin Dillon pitted along with Almirola, Bubba Wallace, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Reddick, Harvick, Truex, Hamlin, Elliott, Larson, Logano, Elliott and the leader Chastain. During the pit stops, Larson was penalized for speeding on pit road.

Then with 47 laps remaining, the caution flew when Hamlin, who had completed his pit service under green, spun before coming to a stop below the apron in Turn 2 due to a mechanical issue. He ended up needing assistance from a wrecker to return to his pit stall, but his strong afternoon came to a late conclusion as Hamlin was strapped with two DNFs through the first three scheduled events. At the moment of caution, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who had yet to pit, was scored the leader followed by Ty Dillon, who also needed to pit, while Kyle Busch was out in front ahead of Chastain and Truex.

Under caution, Stenhouse and Dillon pitted as Kyle Busch assumed the lead followed by Chastain and Truex.

With 41 laps remaining, the race restarts under green. At the start, Kyle Busch battled against Chastain through the first two turns before he moved his No. 18 Ethel M Chocolates Toyota TRD Camry into the lead. With Chastain managing to retain second, Truex was engaged in a battle with Bowman for third place while Stenhouse was in fifth ahead of Byron. 

With 30 laps remaining, Kyle Busch extended his advantage to more than a second over teammate Truex, who earlier battled and prevailed over a battle with Chastain for the runner-up spot. Behind, Bowman settled in fourth in front of teammate Byron. By then, Reddick, who spun on Lap 63, was in sixth followed by Stenhouse and Almirola while 23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch and Bubba Wallace were in the top 10.

Ten laps later, Kyle Busch’s advantage was reduced to a tenth of a second over teammate Truex while third-place Chastain trailed by seven-tenths of a second. Bowman continued to run in fourth place while trailing by less than two seconds, teammate Byron trailed in fifth place by more than four seconds and sixth-place Reddick trailed by more than eight seconds.

Soon after, the battle for the lead between Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch and Truex ignited as Truex started to challenge Busch for the top spot. 

At the start/finish line with 15 laps remaining, Kyle Busch was ahead by a hair over teammate Truex, but Busch could not drive away from Truex as he launched another attack on the inside lane. By then, the teammates were pulling away by more than a second over Chastain.

Then with 13 laps remaining, Truex gained a run through the backstretch to peek ahead and try to clear Busch entering Turns 3 and 4, but Busch utilized a crossover move on the inside lane to reassume the lead through Turn 4 and during the following lap.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event and with the leaders mired in lapped traffic, Kyle Busch continued to lead by a narrow margin over teammate Truex while Chastain was trailing the leaders by more than two seconds. 

With five laps remaining, Kyle Busch retained the lead by less than four-tenths of a second over teammate Truex, who kept teammate Busch within his sights but could not gain a strong run to attack nor clear Busch for the lead.

Just then, Erik Jones pounded the outside wall hard entering Turn 4 with three laps remaining. Though the race briefly remained under green flag conditions, the caution flew when Jones, who was trying to straighten his car below the apron, slipped sideways and spun back across the middle of the track as he was narrowly dodged by Bubba Wallace, who spun and hit the tire barriers near the pit road exit. At the moment of caution, Kyle Busch had managed to maintain a stable advantage over teammate Truex.

Under caution, the leaders pitted and Larson emerged with the lead following a two-tire pit stop along with teammates Bowman and Byron while Kyle Busch, the first competitor with four fresh tires, exited in fourth place followed by Chastain and Truex.

With the event sent into overtime, teammates Larson and Bowman occupied the front row when the race restarted under green. At the start, teammates Larson and Bowman battled dead-even for the lead ahead of Byron, Kyle Busch, Truex and Chastain for a full lap. 

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, teammates Bowman and Larson continued to battle dead even for the lead and the win ahead of the field with no runs occurring for the two leaders. Entering Turns 3 and 4, Bowman started to peek ahead and he managed to clear teammate Larson to take over the lead. Larson then tried to pull a crossover move on Bowman’s No. 48 Chevrolet, but he could not gain momentum through the frontstretch as Bowman streaked across the finish line in first place for his first checked flag of the season.

By capturing his first victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the second consecutive victory of the season for Hendrick Motorsports, Bowman became the third different winner through the first three scheduled events of 2022 as he captured his seventh NASCAR Cup Series career win in his 228th series start. The 2022 season marked Bowman’s fourth consecutive year of notching at least one Cup victory as he also recorded the first win for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports entry at Vegas since 2010 that was last made by seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.

“I just can’t thank Ally and Chevrolet, everybody from Hendrick Motorsports enough,” Bowman said on FOX. “This thing was so fast all day. Just never really had the track position we needed to show it, but man, what a call by [crew chief] Greg Ives and the guys to take two [tires] there. Obviously, it paid off. Racing Kyle’s [Larson] always fun. [I] Got to race him for a couple of wins. We’ve always raced each other super clean and super respectfully. Just can’t say enough about these guys. It’s been a pretty awful start to the year. To come out here and get a win on a last restart deal like that is pretty special.”

Teammate Larson rallied from an adversity-filled event to settle in second place while Chastain, who led a race-high 83 of 274 laps, came home in third place for his first top-five result of the season.

“A dream come true,” Chastain said. “This is what all the work is for. This is why we train and try to build our whole lives and careers once we can race at this level is to have race cars like that. I couldn’t be more proud of Trackhouse [Racing]. It took a lot of patience inside the car from our fast racing. It’s tough for me to not get too aggressive and a lot of neutral thinking. Josh Wise and a book by Trevor Moawad really helped me today and that’s progress.”

Despite falling short of the victory at his home track, Kyle Busch, who finished in fourth place after leading 49 laps, praised the Joe Gibbs Racing organization and the teams for their support in preparing Busch’s backup car for the main event after he wrecked his primary car during Saturday’s practice session.

“Yeah, true testament to everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing,” Busch said. “[I] Really appreciate the No. 18 guys, my guys, but also the Nos. 11, 19 and 20, all them, for coming over, pitching in. Everybody had a hand in being able to make us go today. [I] Really appreciate that. Great Ethel M Chocolates Toyota Camry TRD today. [The car] Was good there, fast at the end. Trying to just do what I could to hold the lead there with Truex and felt like I inched away finally. We were coming to the white [flag] or something. I don’t know what it was. Anyways, [it] wasn’t meant to be. Not our day. See you next week.”

Byron rallied from sustaining two consecutive DNFs through the first two scheduled events to complete the top five in fifth place. Almirola, Reddick, Truex, Elliott and Bell finished in the top 10. Harrison Burton was the highest-finishing rookie in 16th place while Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano finished 12th, 13th and 14th. Cindric ended up in 19th while Keselowski settled in 24th ahead of Bubba Wallace, both of whom were scored a lap down.

There were 23 lead changes for 15 different leaders. The race featured 12 cautions for 60 laps.

With his runner-up result, Kyle Larson leads the regular-season standings by six points over Martin Truex Jr., nine over Joey Logano, 10 over rookie Austin Cindric and 11 over Kyle Busch.

Results.

1. Alex Bowman, 16 laps led, Stage 1 winner

2. Kyle Larson, 27 laps led

3. Ross Chastain, 83 laps led, Stage 2 winner

4. Kyle Busch, 49 laps led

5. William Byron, eight laps led

6. Aric Almirola

7. Tyler Reddick

8. Martin Truex Jr., one lap led

9. Chase Elliott

10. Christopher Bell, 32 laps led

11. Austin Dillon

12. Kevin Harvick

13. Kurt Busch, four laps led

14. Joey Logano

15. Corey LaJoie

16. Harrison Burton

17. Justin Haley

18. Chris Buescher

19. Austin Cindric

20. Ty Dillon, one lap led

21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., four laps led

22. Daniel Hemric

23. Todd Gilliland

24. Brad Keselowski, one lap down, three laps led

25. Bubba Wallace, one lap down

26. Cody Ware, one lap down

27. Michael McDowell, one lap down, four laps led

28. BJ McLeod, two laps down

29. Josh Bilicki, three laps down

30. Garrett Smithley, seven laps down

31. Erik Jones – OUT, Accident

32. Denny Hamlin – OUT, Drivetrain, 31 laps led

33. Cole Custer – OUT

34. Greg Biffle – OUT, Fuel pump, one lap led

35. Chase Briscoe – OUT, Accident

36. Ryan Blaney – OUT, Accident, 10 laps led

37. Daniel Suarez – OUT, Accident

The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series’ West Coast swing will cap off its three-race West Coast swing next weekend at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. The event is scheduled to occur on Sunday, March 13, at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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