All in a span of the final five laps, Alex Bowman had it, lost it, and stole the victory at Pocono Raceway on Saturday afternoon.
On the final restart in the Pocono Organics 325, Bowman took the bottom groove on the choose which proved to be a possible race-winning move. Bowman took off and left Kyle Busch behind, but his Hendrick Motorsports teammate and current dominant driver in the series Kyle Larson was hot on his tail looking for a move to take the lead.
Taking four laps to go, Bowman led Larson across the line. The next time by, Larson finally was able to break through and take the lead. At the white flag, Larson had gapped his teammate by a few car lengths. At the checkers, Bowman made it around first while Larson limped home a blown left front tire in Turn 3 to finish ninth.
“Yeah, I hate to win one that way, but hell yeah, I’ll take it,” Bowman said. “I’m super proud of this Ally No. 48 team. Man, we kind of gave the lead away. We were on two tires and just got super tight. I tried to hold him off as long as I could. I can’t say enough about everybody at Team Hendrick right now, the body shop, engine shop, chassis shop. Top to bottom, everybody is putting race cars on the race track.”
STRATEGIES ALL OVER THE BOARD
The first of two Pocono events on the weekend was one where nobody could really say they knew who was going to win. Sure, it was another Hendrick Motorsports car winning a sixth-straight for the company, and had a bad tire not ruined the No. 5, it would have been a fourth win in a row for Larson, but before that final restart, nobody knew who would find themselves on top.
Before that final restart, Kyle Busch was able to hold off Larson for what would have been the lead had it stayed green. Nobody was even talking about Bowman before then.
Kurt Busch and Joey Logano were on a two-stop strategy, but because of the cautions, they were at a disadvantage on pit road time with having to take more fuel. Kevin Harvick and a few others took fuel only on their final stop. Michael McDowell led at the time of the last yellow but couldn’t make it to the end.
Fast cars were fast, but track position was key. That was a huge difference maker for Bowman at the end, even if he didn’t have the lead at the white flag.
DOUBLING UP ON SUNDAY
These machines aren’t done yet this weekend. At least, those that didn’t end up on the wrecker at the end of the day. Teams will take the rest of the afternoon and the morning to freshen up the cars under the NASCAR rules to put them back on the grid tomorrow for race 2.
Last year, Pocono Raceway was scheduled to be the first and only track with a doubleheader on the same weekend. Of course, during the pandemic and the schedule freeze, a few tracks had to take on doubleheaders to make sure the schedule met the minimum races and ended on time.
This year, Pocono is actually the only double, so it’s the only time that the winner will need to think about not destroying his car because he needs to get back into it tomorrow and race another 350 miles.
Teams that are approved to go to backup cars will start at the back. The Top 20 has been inverted, so preliminarily, 2017 Pocono winner Chris Buescher will lead the field to the green on Sunday afternoon.
There will also be a NASCAR Xfinity Series race a few hours before the second Cup race, just like there was a Truck race before Cup on Saturday. All in all, Pocono hosts four NASCAR races in two days, plus an ARCA race on the Friday before.
After starting the season with a new winner every week, the winner count has leveled off at 11 with eight races remaining in the regular season. Points leader Denny Hamlin has still yet to find victory lane, but he’ll be a lock as long as he does stay there, even if the series manages to find 16 winners that aren’t Hamlin.
With Bowman at three wins, second only to Larson with four and tied with Martin Truex Jr, the other eight drivers in the win column only have that single victory. Pocono could provide another new winner on the season on Sunday, especially with the invert mixing things up from the get go.
Tune into NBC Sports Network at 3:30 p.m. ET to watch the second NASCAR Cup Series race of the weekend, or tune in at Noon ET on the same channel to watch the NASCAR Xfinity Series stars take on the Tricky Triangle.
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com