Alex Bowman leads Hendrick sweep in Drydene 400
It was a Hendrick Motorsports masterclass in the NASCAR Cup Series‘ Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway. The team’s quartet of drivers Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson, William Byron, and Chase Elliott spent much of Sunday’s race running in the top five, with three of them leading a combined 382 of 400 laps. By the end, Bowman came out on top.
Last week’s winner Martin Truex Jr. and Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Denny Hamlin started on the front row. Elliott failed pre-race inspection twice and was sent to the back for the second week in a row, while Ryan Newman did so for unapproved adjustments. Josh Berry, making his Cup début in place of Justin Haley, also dropped back as his substitute duties count as a driver change.
Stages #1 and 2
Truex led the first fifteen laps before the Hendrick show began as Byron took the spot, which he held until the lap 35 competition caution. Shortly before the yellow, Kyle Busch‘s engine began experiencing trouble that dropped him off the pace. Larson became the new leader for the restart on lap 38 and drove off to the stage win; the segment concluded under yellow after Chase Briscoe‘s right-rear tyre went down. Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Byron, Joey Logano, Bowman, Chris Buescher, and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top ten.
The second stage began on lap 130 with Larson continuing to lead. With the exception of Berry’s spin due to a flat right-front tyre on lap 170, the stage was dominated by Larson once again en route to another victory. Hendrick drivers occupied the top four with Elliott, Bowman, and Byron tailing. Behind were Hamlin, Harvick, Kurt Busch, Keselowski, Austin Dillon, and Tyler Reddick.
Larson and Bowman comprised the front row for the start of the final segment. On lap 301, Aric Almirola‘s tyre went down and caused him to slam into the outside wall in turn four, setting his car ablaze and causing him to limp out of his car. Almirola’s troubling season continues as Sunday marks his second straight race with a wreck, and he still has just one top ten after thirteen rounds.
“That was another hard hit. My body is hurting, it doesn’t want to take any more hard hits like that,” Almirola told FS1, referring to his 2017 Kansas wreck that resulted in a serious back injury.
“It’s just such a trying year. I don’t know what exactly happened. I think something in the suspension broke, it wasn’t like a right-front went down, it wasn’t like all of a sudden. A couple laps before that, I felt like I was laying on the splitter pretty hard, which is unusual that far into a run, and I kind of mentioned it on the radio and then went down into turn three, the worst possible place—well, there’s no good place at Dover to have a suspension failure or a tyre go down—but our guys deserve so much better.”
At the lead was Bowman for the ensuing restart on lap 304. Six laps later, Anthony Alfredo spun after contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., resulting in another caution. Debris on the frontstretch led to the seventh yellow flag of the day.
Bowman eventually surpassed 1,000 career laps led at the Cup level. With his Hendrick team-mates following, he drove off to his second win of the season, fourth of his career, and first at Dover.
Larson, Elliott, and Byron followed to complete the Hendrick sweep of the top four positions. Such a feat had not been accomplished since the 2005 season finale at Homestead by Roush Fenway Racing; incidentally, that race occurred less than three months after NASCAR 06: Total Team Control, a video game that encourages players to switch between a team’s cars and work together (with 1–2–3–4 finishes being attainable), was released.
Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing are the only other teams to come close since, with the former nearly doing so at the 2018 Talladega fall race before cautions broke them up and the latter achieved it at the 2019 Richmond fall date before Erik Jones was disqualified. DePaolo Engineering is the only team to have multiple top-four sweeps with two during the 1957 season at Titusville-Cocoa (took place in December 1956) and North Wilkesboro; the latter also saw DePaolo fall short of a 1–2–3–4–5 as fifth driver Allen Adkins finished sixth.
It is Hendrick’s twenty-first win at Dover and the first since Elliott won the 2018 fall race. Bowman also notches the #48’s twelfth victory at the mile-long circuit, continuing the legacy of eleven-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson.
“It’s pretty amazing. I feel like we’ve been off for a couple weeks, but we’re still the same race team that won in Richmond,” said Bowman after the race. “We’ve been probably a little down on ourselves. Just tried to get the guys back motivated after a rough week last week in Darlington. Our pit stops were incredible today.
“To run 1–2–3–4 for HMS, so cool. I don’t know when the last time that happened was, but it’s been a long time. Really, really cool to see it.”
Team owner Rick Hendrick commented, “Every time you’re in a race, you like to see them run 1–2–3–4. The feeling is unbelievable. It was probably the longest last hundred laps that I’ve ever seen in a race just because I kind of wanted to see it so bad, so close. To be able to pull that off, that’s kind of one of those things in racing that you would say was on your bucket list. […]
“We’ve already started (negotiations on a multi-year contract for Bowman). It should be done any time. We want Alex there. He wants to be there. It’s kind of at this point just a formality.”
|1||16||48||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|2||4||5||Kyle Larson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|3||8||9||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|4||3||24||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|5||9||22||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||400||Running|
|6||5||4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||400||Running|
|7||2||11||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||400||Running|
|8||12||8||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|9||24||99||Daniel Suárez||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|10||30||41||Cole Custer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||400||Running|
|11||22||23||Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing||Toyota||400||Running|
|12||7||12||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||400||Running|
|13||28||1||Kurt Busch||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|14||14||3||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|15||19||42||Ross Chastain||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|16||15||2||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||Ford||400||Running|
|17||10||17||Chris Buescher||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||400||Running|
|18||25||37||Ryan Preece||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||399||Running|
|19||1||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||399||Running|
|20||20||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||399||Running|
|21||11||20||Christopher Bell||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||396||Running|
|22||23||43||Erik Jones||Richard Petty Motorsports||Chevrolet||396||Running|
|23||13||6||Ryan Newman||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||396||Running|
|24||18||21||Matt DiBenedetto||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||395||Running|
|25||21||34||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||395||Running|
|26||26||7||Corey LaJoie||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||393||Running|
|27||6||18||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||393||Running|
|28||27||38||Anthony Alfredo||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||392||Running|
|29||35||00||Quin Houff||StarCom Racing||Chevrolet||388||Running|
|30||29||77||Josh Berry*||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||388||Running|
|31||34||51||Cody Ware*||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||387||Running|
|32||36||53||Garrett Smithley*||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||383||Running|
|33||33||15||James Davison||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||382||Running|
|34||37||52||Josh Bilicki||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||381||Running|
|35||17||14||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||335||Running|
|36||31||78||B.J. McLeod*||Live Fast Motorsports||Ford||334||Engine|
|37||32||10||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||300||Accident|
* – Ineligible for Cup points