JOLIET, Ill. – Alex Bowman never stopped battling for all 400 miles Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, and it led him to his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory.
The driver led 88 laps behind the wheel of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, including the final six, en route to Victory Lane.
“It’s all I’ve wanted my whole life,” an emotional Bowman said after climbing out of the car as the first driver in NASCAR Cup Series history to capture his first career win at Chicagoland Speedway.
The rain-delayed race provided Hendrick Motorsports’ 254th Cup Series victory, with Bowman becoming the 18th different driver to win for the organization.
His teammates all joined him inside the top 11, with Jimmie Johnson finishing fourth, William Byron crossing the finish line eighth and Chase Elliott taking the checkered flag in 11th.
“I’m so proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and Axalta and the Hendrick engine shop,” said Bowman, who lost the lead with eight laps remaining but took it back just two laps later and held it for the win. “My guys have worked so hard.”
Bowman is the 10th different driver to score his first career win while driving for Hendrick Motorsports, which leads the Cup Series all-time.
The Tucson, Arizona, native is the sixth driver to win while piloting the No. 88 machine and the first to capture his first career win with that car number.
“I was just tired of running second,” he said. “I don't want to do that anymore. I feel like this is the last box, aside from going and chasing a championship, that I needed personally for myself to validate my career. I feel like obviously there's a lot more left to accomplish, but this is always what I hear is you haven't won a race.
“We finally did it.”
Below is a closer look at how Sunday’s raced played out for the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Following a red flag due to rain after just 11 laps, Elliott headed to pit road for fuel, tires and chassis adjustments that had the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in 37th for the restart. By Lap 66 the driver was two laps down but when green-flag stops cycled through he was just one lap down. During another caution he was able to take a wave-around, putting him back on the lead lap to finish Stage 1 in 18th.
- Just a few laps into the second stage, Elliott was inside the top 10 in eighth. By Lap 110 the driver was in third behind his teammate, Johnson. In the final laps of the second stage, he battled for the lead, ultimately finishing Stage 2 in second, earning nine extra points.
- Between stages, the No. 9 car was dropped on the air gun hose, which cost the crew valuable time having to re-lift the car. It caused Elliott to restart 19th and he battled to regain position throughout the final segment. With 20 laps remaining, he was up to 12th as he looked to get inside the top 10. When the checkered flag waved, Elliott finished 11th.
WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 LIBERTY UNIVERSITY CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- After starting from the rear due to an engine change, Byron made his way through the field and into the top five by Lap 29. He was running in third before he made a scheduled pit stop for fuel only, ultimately finishing Stage 1 in eighth to earn three extra points.
- On Lap 92 Byron was running third just behind his teammate, Johnson, but was able to pass him as he raced to be the leader on Lap 99. When drivers headed to pit road under a caution shortly thereafter, the No. 24 car was first back out to the track. Shuffled back in traffic on the restart, however, the No. 24 Chevy was pushed back to 10th. Byron fought his way back inside the top 10, and finished Stage 2 in seventh to earn four extra points.
- Slight contact to the No. 24 Chevy early in the final segment followed by a caution on Lap 171 had the driver headed to pit road. He restarted 14th but quickly made his way inside the top five. After a green-flag pit stop, Byron was running seventh as the field cycled through, able to maintain a top-10 position. When the No. 24 Chevy crossed the finish line he was eighth, earning his fifth top-10 finish of the season.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 ALLY CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Johnson started the race on the second row and quickly made his way to the front of the pack as the leader before a red flag was displayed due to rain.
- Hours later when the race resumed, Johnson returned to the track as the leader before falling to third by Lap 20. The driver made a green-flag pit stop on Lap 57 for fuel, right side tires and pressure adjustments. As the final laps of the stage came to a close, he was riding inside the top 10, and finished Stage 1 in fourth, earning seven extra points.
- At the start of the second stage, Johnson ran just behind the leader and maintained a top-five position for the majority of the segment. After being passed by his teammate, Elliott, Johnson fell to fifth to finish the stage with six extra points.
- Johnson took the green flag for the final segment in third, reporting his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was loose even as he moved into the runner-up position. Some contact on the restart had the No. 48 headed to pit road under caution but quick work by the No. 48 team allowed him to maintain a top-five position. In the closing laps of the race, Johnson remained in the top five to finish fourth.
ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 88 AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Bowman began Sunday’s 400-mile event in eighth, where he stayed until a red flag due to rain. After the weather cleared up and the green flag waved, Bowman came to pit road for a green-flag stop on Lap 49 for four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments. Able to hold his top-10 position, he finished Stage 1 in ninth and picked up an extra point.
- The beginning of Stage 2 saw Bowman running strong inside the top 10. Halfway through the segment, the driver looked cracked the top five on Lap 136. He finished Stage 2 in fourth, earning seven extra points.
- Between stages, the driver pitted and restarted third before quickly advancing to lead his first laps of the race. He held the lead on a restart with 70 laps to go, and eventually cultivated a lead of more than two seconds.
- As the final laps of the race wound down, Bowman remained in the lead, but Kyle Larson caught him to move to the front with eight laps remaining. He continued to battle, however, and just two laps later he overtook Larson to jump back into the lead. He didn’t look back, holding on to take the checkered flag and capture his first career Cup Series win.