The NASCAR Cup Series is on a break due to the Olympics, providing ample time to examine past races and where certain drivers excelled. The next race up is the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on April 18, 2021.
The race makes the list for multiple reasons, but there are two that particularly stand out. First off, Alex Bowman captured the checkered flag and ended a winless streak at Richmond that plagued Hendrick Motorsports. The last member of the organization to reach Victory Lane at the short track was seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who did so on Sept. 7, 2008.
The second reason is that Bowman used his win to pay tribute to team member William “Rowdy” Harrell and his wife, Blakley, who tragically passed away in an automobile accident in the Florida Keys last November.
“This one is for Rowdy and his family. Miss him and Blakley every day,” Bowman said during his post-race interview. “It means the world to be able to win for Ally. It’s emotional, obviously, with how hard the offseason was on us.”
Bowman Overtaking a Contender Served as a Highlight
There were several incredible moments during the race at Richmond. However, there is one that serves as the highlight. Bowman took the top spot from Denny Hamlin and denied the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry his first win of the season.
This path to the front of the pack was not easy. Bowman actually had to recover from a penalty during the Stage 2 break. His team had an uncontrolled tire, sending him to the rear of the field. Despite losing his spot near the front of the pack, Bowman immediately began making moves to navigate through the pack.
A crash with 20 laps to go brought out the caution flag and sent the drivers to the pits for new tires. Hamlin beat Joey Logano off of pit road and appeared to be en route to his first win of the season. After all, he led 207 laps and won the first two stages during a dominant performance.
Hamlin did not maintain his lead, however, as Bowman passed him with 10 laps remaining. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro took control at the right time and locked up his first win of the season.
Bowman has shown throughout his career that he is capable of contending for wins. However, the race at Richmond created an entirely different conversation. He showed that he could run to the front and steal a win from the odds-on favorite in dramatic fashion.
A Speeding Penalty Took Away a Potentially Exciting Battle
Hamlin led the most laps at Richmond, but teammate Martin Truex Jr. also turned in a strong performance early. The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry led 107 laps and created the expectation that he would battle with Hamlin for the win.
However, an issue disrupted a promising race. Truex headed down pit road for fresh tires and fuel just before lap 300. Unfortunately for the No. 19 team, the veteran driver sped on pit road, resulting in a penalty. He had to drop back to the rear of the field with 100 laps remaining.
Truex made moves late to partially get back into contention. He finished the race fifth overall but did not have time to overtake Christopher Bell or Logano. Truex clearly had a stock car capable of reaching Victory Lane, but his penalty took away the opportunity for him to take part in an epic battle with Hamlin and Bowman on the final laps.