CONCORD, N.C. -- Alex Bowman earned a top-five finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday night after a wild ending to the first race in the Round of 12.
The last 32 laps were anything but predictable after several cautions changed the course of the event. Jimmie Johnson's flat tire on lap 232 allowed those who hadn't pitted under green to pit under yellow, changing the course of the race. Bowman had been in a battle for first when the caution dropped but he worked his way back to fifth place.
Despite the tire issue, Johnson rallied and finished in 11th. Chase Elliott was in the running for a top-five finish when he was caught on the wrong side of the caution. He placed 22nd. William Byron checked up on a much slower car during the second-to-last caution and tapped his bumper, causing him to spin out. He finished 25th.
Kurt Busch won the race.
Take a look below to see how the first race in the Round of 12 shook out for the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 UNIFIRST CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 1LE
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Elliott led all Hendrick Motorsports drivers with a third-place start. He quickly moved to the inside line and took over first place within the first lap. Elliott was still in that spot when the competition caution came out on lap 26.
- He was sixth coming off pit road and restarted in that position. Elliott quickly moved to fifth and was in fourth by the 36th lap. He stayed steady in fourth until the end of the first stage.
- Elliott restarted in fifth and jumped to second on lap 88 after two drivers in front of him tapped each other. He made a huge inside run for the top spot on lap 92 and snagged it from the leader. Elliott pitted on lap 120 and returned to the track in ninth.
- The driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE started gaining ground and was in fifth by lap 128 and jumped to first after the remaining cars pitted. Elliott stayed in first and clinched a valuable stage win.
- He started Stage 3 in third after he lost the race off pit road. Elliott fell to fourth two laps into the stage but quickly regained the spot again. He soon passed teammate Alex Bowman for the No. 2 spot.
- A caution on lap 190 allowed Elliott to freshen up with a pit stop. He restarted in fourth after losing two spots on pit road and fell to sixth by lap 200. He gained two spots back by lap 214. However, a caution after Elliott was on pit road forced him to restart in 15th with less than 30 laps to go.
- Elliott moved up to 12th with 20 laps to go. Another caution occurred three laps later and allowed Elliott to jump to 10th for the restart. He moved into ninth with 11 to go and stayed there when another caution was brought out. Elliott got stuck behind a slower car on the restart, which shuffled him out of the top 20. He finished the race in 22nd.
WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 1LE
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Byron rolled off the grid in 28th and was in 22nd by the fifth lap. He scooted into the top 20 by lap 19 and stayed in 20th when the competition caution was dropped.
- Byron was too fast exiting his pit box during the yellow and was sent to the rear of the field. He restarted in 31st but quickly jumped to 23rd. By lap 59 he was up to 18th and inched up to 17th before the end of Stage 1.
- Byron restarted in 18th and moved to 15th by lap 105. He surged to fourth after a round of pit stops from the leaders. A lap later, he was in second and soon he moved to first. Byron gave up the lead on lap 135 to head to pit road for fresh tires and fuel. The driver of the No. 24 came back out in 19th soon was riding in 10th with four left in the stage, which is how he concluded the second segment.
- The 22-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina, native kicked off Stage 3 in ninth. He was in 10th when a yellow flag dropped due to debris on the track on lap 190. Byron restarted in seventh, but when the fifth caution came out he already had been to pit road and was forced to restart in 19th.
- Another yellow flag dropped with 17 left and allowed Byron to move up to 14th. He was in that position when he ran into the back of another car and spun out. Byron restarted the race in 24th and slipped to 25th with two to go, finishing the race there.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 ALLY CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 1LE
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Johnson started in 18th and jumped up five spots to 13th within the first five laps. He slipped to 15th by lap 10 and was in 19th when the competition caution was waved.
- Johnson restarted in 18th and was in 13th by lap 35. Halfway through the first segment he moved up another position to 12th and remained there for the rest of Stage 1.
- The seven-time Cup Series champion broke into the top 10 on lap 90 and moved up to eighth several laps later. He pitted and was in 27th when he returned to the track due to a speeding penalty on pit road. Johnson moved up a couple of spots to 25th and finished Stage 2 in that position.
- He restarted in 28th and was in 25th when a caution came out on lap 190. This allowed Johnson to move into the free-pass position and get back on the lead lap. He restarted in 23rd and was in 17th by lap 202.
- Johnson had an issue with his rear tire and brought out the fifth caution. He restarted in 11th with less than 30 to go and moved into ninth a few laps later. Johnson fell back to 10th with 20 left but jumped to eighth when the sixth yellow flag dropped.
- Johnson fell to 15th with 10 laps left in the race but moved up to 13th for the overtime restart. He edged up to 11th in the final laps and crossed the finish line in that position.
ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 88 LLUMAR CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 1LE
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Bowman began the race in eighth and was in 10th by the second lap. Seven laps later, Bowman jumped up to sixth but fell back to eighth 20 laps in. He restarted in eighth and shifted up to seventh by lap 34. Fifteen laps later, he was up to sixth but finished the stage in eighth.
- Bowman started Stage 2 in sixth behind teammate Chase Elliott and moved up to third after two competitors in front of him made contact with each other. On lap 120, Bowman headed to pit road for fresh tires and quickly worked his way back up to eighth.
- By lap 129 Bowman was in seventh. He moved to third as the leading cars finally pitted on lap 145 and stayed there for the remaining 15 laps of the second stage, earning valuable stage points.
- Bowman moved up a spot to second for the Stage 3 restart after he beat Elliott off pit road. Bowman took over in first place two laps into Stage 3, marking the first time he’s ever led at Las Vegas. He lost the lead 12 laps into the stage and fell to second.
- By lap 179, Bowman was riding in third after Elliott passed him. He was still in that spot when a caution came out on lap 190 and he restarted in that same position. Bowman jockeyed for second place and claimed it with 66 to go in the race. He went to pit road with 35 to go and was fast off pit road, moving into first.
- However, a caution came out and allowed the cars who hadn’t pitted to pit under yellow, moving Bowman back to 10th. He fell to 11th with 22 to go, but slipped into ninth two laps later. Another caution allowed Bowman to restart in sixth.
- Bowman moved into third with 10 to go and restarted in that position after yet another caution forced the field to restart. He slipped to fifth in the final two laps and finished the race in that spot.