Alex Bowman got his second win of the season at Dover with an assist from clean air as Hendrick Motorsports swept the top four spots.
Bowman took the lead when his pit crew got him off pit road first on lap 304. He then led the final 96 laps of the race as teammate Kyle Larson was unable to pass him and became the second driver to have multiple wins in 2021.
Larson looked to have the dominant car in Sunday’s race. But the final 96 laps of the race showed that the dominance had a lot to do with the clean air that comes with being at the front of the field. Larson couldn’t mount a challenge to Bowman over the two restarts that followed Bowman taking the lead and ended up finishing second despite leading 263 of the race’s 400 laps.
Hendrick’s Chase Elliott finished third while William Byron was fourth. The top non-Hendrick driver was Joey Logano in fifth. It’s the first time in team history that Hendrick cars have finished in the top four spots. The team famously finished 1-2-3 in the 1997 Daytona 500 with Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte and Ricky Craven.
Clean air was king on Sunday despite NASCAR reducing downforce and increasing horsepower at Dover. The race was run with NASCAR’s 750 horsepower and lesser downforce rules setup and produced a different driving style for drivers and teams. It didn’t, however, produce appreciably different racing. The same milquetoast Dover that we’ve seen for the past decade was on full display on Sunday.
That had nothing to do with Hendrick’s dominance. What the team did on Sunday is remarkable. But track position was key. Hendrick’s drivers and teams established themselves in the top five early in the race. And they stayed there as cars were unable to make up significant ground through the field over the course of the race.
Martin Truex Jr.’s bad day
Truex entered Sunday’s race as the only driver with more than one win. And he started first. But his day went south after he got some damage on the nose of his car early in the race.
Truex apparently damaged the nose of his car when he hit a lapped car trying to get debris off his grille. A short time later on lap 16, Byron passed Truex for the lead and Truex never sniffed the front of the field again.
The No. 19 team put some tape on the nose of the car to fix the damage but Truex never got his track position back. He ran outside the top 10 for most of the second half of the race and ultimately finished 19th and a lap down.
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