Sunday afternoon, the NASCAR Cup Series drivers took on the Monster Mile. They headed onto Dover International Speedway in search of a win at a difficult track. Several drivers struggled with various issues, but the Chevrolet teams put on a show en route to Alex Bowman’s second win of the season.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver did not lead the most laps on the day. That honor belonged to teammate Kyle Larson. However, Bowman’s pit crew put him at the front of the pack when it mattered most, and he did not relinquish his lead. He raced to Victory Lane and solidified his spot in the playoffs.
The race started quietly without any major issues. The first caution for an incident occurred on the final lap of Stage 1 and then the second occurred midway through Stage 2. The final stage, however, had multiple cautions due to incidents and debris on the track.
Hendrick Motorsports dominated all three stages
While Martin Truex Jr. started on the pole, he was not in the lead for very long. Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron passed him and led for more than 20 laps before Larson took over. The No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro then proceeded to dominate for the first two stages.
Larson led every single lap except for one during Stage 2, but he was not the only HMS driver near the top. Chase Elliott fought him for the lead during the back half of the stage while Byron held onto third place. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin was in fourth place, but Bowman raced past him in the No. 48 Ally Racing Chevrolet Camaro and joined his teammates in the top four.
The HMS stable held onto the lead for the rest of Stage 2, resulting in Larson’s second stage win of the afternoon. This performance, as well as the very fast pit stops, only further highlighted how dominant the team has been in 2021. Larson now leads all Cup Series drivers with six stage wins.
Once the third stage began, however, the situation changed. Larson remained in the front of the pack, but Bowman passed him during one of the final pit stops. Bowman remained in the lead all the way to the checkered flag while Larson finished second. Elliott and Byron rounded out the top four.
Stewart-Haas Racing continued to struggle
In 2020, all four Stewart-Haas Racing drivers reached the playoffs after strong performances in the regular season. In 2021, however, the four cars have struggled mightily.
None of the four drivers — Kevin Harvick, Cole Custer, Aric Almirola, and Chase Briscoe — have reached Victory Lane. They have also been involved in several on-track incidents that ended their days early. Sunday was no exception as both Briscoe and Almirola hit the wall.
The first SHR incident occurred on the final lap of Stage 1. Briscoe pushed hard trying to remain ahead of Larson and on the lead lap, but he lost control and slammed violently into the wall. The collision destroyed the right rear of Briscoe’s car and sent him to the garage for repairs. He ultimately returned to the track, albeit 50 laps down.
Almirola, on the other hand, lost control of his stock car on Turn 3 and hit the wall at a high rate of speed. The car skidded to a halt against the outside wall before bursting into flames. Almirola was able to climb out of the destroyed Mustang, but the safety crews had to help him off of the track.
Almirola later told pit reporter Regan Smith that the suspension broke and removed his ability to control the No. 10 Ford Mustang. He confirmed that the hard hit caused considerable pain but noted that he avoided serious injury.
With the race over, the Cup Series will now head to Circuit of the Americas for the first-ever race weekend in Austin. The drivers will take on the unique road course at 2:30 p.m. ET. FS1 will broadcast the race with Jeff Gordon, Mike Joy, and Clint Bowyer in the booth.