BROOKLYN, Mich. – Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman led the way for Hendrick Motorsports at Michigan International Speedway in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race.
The reigning Cup Series champion finished seventh in the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for his 12th top-10 finish of the season. The 30-year-old Elk Grove, California, native lined up on the second row for what turned out to be the final restart with 35 laps to go. However, Larson would lose momentum while in a three-wide battle with Bubba Wallace and Joey Logano for second. His slide up the track took him out of the top five and that would effectively take him out of contention as the remainder of the race went green.
"Bubba (Wallace) cleared me and I think he got loose, and then I got loose," Larson said. "I just washed up the track and that was the end of our race. But I was really happy with our No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevy, with the speed and the handling. I wish I would have gotten out to the lead, but I just wasn't as aggressive as a lot of the field was."
Bowman earned his 10th top-10 finish of the season with a ninth-place run in the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. This top-10 result was his first in the past nine races and came after he started the race from the 30th position.
"We just started super deep and played some strategy to get some track position back," Bowman said. "I’m happy to get the No. 48 Ally Chevy is back in the top 10. Can’t say enough about Greg (Ives, crew chief) and the guys. We’ll keep digging as we close out the season."
Chase Elliott and William Byron finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th, respectively.
Elliott, the driver of the No. 9 UniFirst Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, holds a 119-point lead over Ryan Blaney with three races to go in the regular season. Larson sits fifth in the standings, but is only five points away from moving up to third.
Kevin Harvick won the race to become the 15th winner in the Cup Series this season.
The four cars of Hendrick Motorsports will next be in action on Sunday, Aug. 14 at Richmond Raceway. The 24th points-paying Cup Series race will be at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).
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Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: Seventh
Stage one: The three-time Michigan winner took the green flag from eighth. Ten laps into the run, Larson was into the top five. On lap 11, he passed Joey Logano for fourth. The reigning Cup Series champion nearly passed Kyle Busch for third and ended up losing fourth to Christopher Bell just before the lap 20 competition caution. Before pitting, he radioed that the car was “pretty good.” Larson would pit during the yellow for two tires and restart 15th on lap 25. The 30-year-old restarted 14th on lap 33 and just missed out on stage points as he finished 11th in the opening 45-lap stage.
Stage two: During the stage break, Larson told crew chief Cliff Daniels, “my car is fine. Got in a couple bad spots. Handling-wise, I’m good.” Daniels made the call for two tires and that helped the No. 5 gain nine spots on pit road. On lap 52, Larson restarted fourth and chose the outside lane behind Ty Gibbs and Corey LaJoie. The driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 would use the middle lane to jump back into the top four. Going to the inside, he took second away from Ty Gibbs and was on the hunt for leader Ross Chastain. The No. 5 team radioed to Larson that he should work with Chastain to pull away from the pack of that was immediately behind them but Chastain kept coming across the nose of Larson’s car. Battling Bell for second, Larson would lose momentum to drift a bit up the track and drop back to fifth. After grabbing fourth, Larson could not keep Kevin Harvick at bay and he would fall to fifth. Fresher tires were starting to catch him past him past the midway point of the stage and so on lap 95, he pitted for four tires and fuel. Under caution at lap 103, Larson came back to pit road to top off on fuel. For the lap 106 restart, Larson lined up ninth and aggressively got into the top five with a strong restart. When the caution came out on lap 110, the Elk Grove, California, native was sixth and would stay out to restart fourth on lap 114. Larson went to the bottom to grab third before setting his sights on Daniel Suarez for second. Ultimately, Larson finished the stage in third.
Final stage: Under the stage break, Daniels had Larson pit for two right-side tires. The driver of the No. 5 was penalized for speeding on pit road and came back down for left-side tires and more fuel. He would restart 24th on lap 127 and be on the move from the get go. Larson was in 17th, two laps later. He would continue to chip away as he looked to recover from the pit road penalty, moving around Chris Buescher to 12th on lap 138. He reported being “a little edgy in one and two.” On lap 146, Larson was back in the top 10 and one of the top-five cars in terms of speed on track. Three laps later, he was up to eighth and showing plenty of speed. That speed showed itself quickly as Larson passed Logano for seventh. As the pit window opened, Larson moved up to fourth and was reminded by his crew chief that they can run longer since they had more fuel from their stop after the penalty. He was scored in third when the seventh caution came out on lap 161. Under yellow, Larson pitted for four tires and service. He restarted third on lap 166 and chose the outside lane behind Kevin Harvick. The 17-time Cup Series winner went three-wide on the outside with Bubba Wallace and Joey Logano for second and that saw him get loose in turns one and two. He would lose a ton of momentum and fall back to ninth as a result of that. The driver of the No. 5 passed teammate Chase Elliott for eighth on lap 171. 10 laps later, Denny Hamlin passed Larson. He got past teammate Alex Bowman to get eighth back on lap 190 and Erik Jones for seventh on lap 194.
Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: Ninth
Stage one: Bowman lined up 30th for Sunday’s race. He was an early mover in the opening 10 laps, gaining seven spots. He was still running in 23rd at the time of the competition caution at lap 20. Under yellow, crew chief Greg Ives made the call to take two tires in an effort to gain track position. That would set Bowman up to restart 18th on lap 25. The 29-year-old was able to dodge a multi-car incident just after the race restart. He lined up 17th for the next restart on lap 33 and ran around that position for the closing 13 laps of the stage before finishing in 17th.
Stage two: During the stage break, Bowman would pit for four tires and fuel. For the lap 52 restart, the Tucson, Arizona, native was 17th. On lap 59, the winner of this year’s Las Vegas Motor Speedway race took a spot in the top 15. By lap 85, he was up to 12th – an improvement of 18 spots from where he started the event. Bowman moved up the board to fifth as teams pitted before Ives brought him to pit road on lap 95 for four tires and fuel. With a yellow coming out during a cycle of pit stops, Bowman had to take a wave around to get back on the lead lap. The driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 restarted 19th on lap 106. A great restart saw Bowman jump into the top 15 but he nearly made contact with Bubba Wallace. At the time of the lap 110 caution, the seven-time Cup Series winner was scored in 14th and would stay out under yellow. On the lap 114 restart, Bowman was ninth and worked with teammate William Byron to draft in an attempt to pass cars. Bowman would take eighth in stage two, gaining three stage points in the process.
Final stage: Ives had Bowman pit for service – for two right-side tires. That put him in 15th for the lap 127 restart. The Ally Racing driver got loose and way up the track on lap 134. That bobble allowed his teammates Kyle Larson and Byron to bounce for positions. Spotter Kevin Hamlin would tell his driver that “we get better as we go all day. We’ll be fine.” Bowman kept inching forward towards the top 10, running in the 11th position on lap 155. He would enter the top 10 as the pit window opened on lap 157 and was scored in seventh when the seventh caution came on lap 161. Bowman pitted under caution for four tires and fuel and the team’s work gained him three spots on pit road. He would restart fourth on lap 166 and chose the inside line behind Bubba Wallace. Bowman would slip a few spots and then hold steady in sixth before being passed by Martin Truex Jr. on lap 176 and Denny Hamlin on lap 181. He worked to maintain a top-10 position late in the race.
Chase Elliott, No. 9 UniFirst Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 11th
Stage one: Elliott started from the 13th position at Michigan. In the opening five laps, he went backwards, dropping to 21st, before moving forward again to 18th on lap 10. At the competition caution on lap 20, he was scored in 18th. The three-time runner-up finisher at Michigan pitted for four tires and fuel under yellow and would restart 29th on lap 25. Elliott was able to avoid major damage as a multi-car wreck broke out in the back of the field just after the restart. He was told he had a slight dent in the hood but nothing that should slow him up. Elliott restarted 22nd on lap 33 and made moves to finish the 45-lap stage in 15th.
Stage two: Under the stage break, crew chief Alan Gustafson elected to have four fresh tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment applied to the No. 9 UniFirst Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. On lap 52, Elliott restarted 21st and would gain a few spots early before settling into 17th. The 2020 Cup Series champion rejoined the top 15 on lap 81 and passed his teammate Alex Bowman for 12th on lap 88. With pit stops starting, the four-time winner in 2022 would take a place in the top 10 on lap 90 and was in the top five on lap 95. Gustafson would have Elliott pit from fourth for four tires and fuel but the team had a long stop due to an issue on the right side with dropping the jack too soon before the wheel was tight. With a yellow coming out during a cycle of pit stops, he had to take a wave around to get back on the lead lap. Elliott restarted 22nd on lap 106. When the caution came out on lap 110, he was running 20th. Gustafson brought Elliott to pit road under yellow to top off on fuel before restarting 17th on lap 114. Elliott finished the stage in 16th.
Final stage: The driver of the No. 9 came to pit road under the stage break for four tires and fuel. Elliott restarted 21st on lap 127. In the early going of the run, he would remain in that position and join the top 20 on lap 133. With the pit window open, Elliott entered the top 15 on lap 158. He was running in 12th when the seventh caution came out on lap 161. During the yellow flag, Elliott pitted for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment after relaying to the team that the car was tight that run. The No. 9 restarted eighth on lap 166 and remained there until being passed by teammate Kyle Larson on lap 171 and then Denny Hamlin a few laps later. A pass by Ty Gibbs dropped Elliott out of the top 10 on lap 184 as he continued to battle a tight race car.
William Byron, No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 12th
Stage one: Byron took to the grid from the 20th position. Five laps into the run, the 24-year-old driver was up seven spots to 13th and reported he was “tight off of two but that’s it.” Several laps later, he reported the car as “really light and sensitive as the run goes.” When the lap 20 competition caution came out, Byron was up to 11th. Crew chief Rudy Fugle would keep the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 out to restart fifth on lap 25. Byron restarted fifth on lap 33 and carrying momentum from the outside lane, he would take fourth. Martin Truex Jr. took the spot back and Byron went back to fifth. Chris Buescher and Ross Chastain were able to draft a bit to drop the Charlotte, North Carolina, native back two spots. He would finish the stage in seventh.
Stage two: Under the stage break, Byron radioed the team and said, “I just need more turn, especially on exit.” He would pit for four tires, fuel and both an air pressure and chassis adjustment. The pit crew alerted Byron that he had a corded left-front tire from that last run, where he did not pit in the opening 45 laps. On the lap 52 restart, Byron lined up 15th and a pass on Ryan Blaney put him in 12th on lap 66. The two-time winner in 2022 was “pretty happy here” with the handling on the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. On lap 83, Byron was back in the top 10. Fugle brought Byron down pit road on lap 91 from a top-10 spot for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. The No. 24 pit crew had a 10.78-second stop. Under the yellow flag on lap 103, Byron stopped on pit road to top off on fuel. He restarted 11th on lap 106. He grabbed a spot in the top 10 on lap 107 and then passed Chase Briscoe for ninth on the next lap – the position he would be in when the lap 110 caution fell. Byron stayed out under yellow to restart sixth on lap 114. Byron worked together with teammate Alex Bowman just after the restart to gain spots. At the end of stage two, Byron was scored in ninth – giving him six stage points on the day between stages one and two.
Final stage: Byron pitted prior to the restart for the final stage for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. He lined up 20th on the lap 127 restart for the final stage. In the early going of the stage, Byron was trying to make moves but had no help and was told to “re-rack and try again.” On lap 137, Byron rejoined the top 15. He continued to inch his way closer to the top 10 and was up to 12th on lap 154. He would enter the top 10 as the pit window opened on lap 157 and was scored in ninth when the seventh caution came out on lap 161. Byron pitted under caution for four tires, fuel and adjustments with air pressure and the chassis. The crew had to take extra time on the right rear, though, and that cost him some track position. Byron restarted 12th on lap 166 and would continue to run in that position. The four-time Cup Series winner would try different lines to help with the handling of the No. 24 late in the race.