Sunday afternoon, the NASCAR Cup Series drivers faced off in the Toyota Owners 400. Martin Truex Jr. entered the event as the heavy favorite due to his recent success on the short track, and he ran near the front of the pack most of the afternoon. However, Alex Bowman won after recovering from a penalty and passing Denny Hamlin, ending a unique losing streak in the process.
The Hendrick Motorsports stable has struggled at Richmond for a very long time. The last time one of Rick Hendrick’s drivers won at the short track was Sept. 7, 2008. Jimmie Johnson was the driver of the No. 48 at the time. Bowman ended this streak the same day that the seven-time champion made his IndyCar debut.
The driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, Bowman entered the season with raised expectations after he replaced Johnson in the No. 48. The HMS team struggled early in the season and dealt with two crashes. However, the team performed extremely well on Sunday. Even a late penalty for an uncontrolled tire did not cause too many issues. Bowman raced his way back to the front of the pack and took the lead from Hamlin with only 10 laps remaining.
Joe Gibbs Racing led the field all afternoon
The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry, Hamlin has been NASCAR’s most consistent driver in 2021. He has finished in the top five in all but one race so far, resulting in a decisive lead in the points standing. He appeared to be well on his way to Victory Lane after winning the first two stages, but Bowman overtook him after a late caution.
Hamlin and Truex alternated spots at the front of the pack throughout the first two stages, but they were not the only Joe Gibbs Racing drivers showcasing their skills behind the wheel. Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell also did so while running in the top 10 throughout the day.
All four JGR drivers finished Stage 2 in the top 10 and continued to put together strong performances into the third and final stage. There was even one point in the race where all four drivers were in the top six.
While the group had the best cars in the field, one particular driver had to deal with an issue during a green-flag pit stop. Truex received a penalty for speeding at the entrance of pit road. He had to drop to the rear of the field. However, Truex avoided falling a lap down after pulling ahead of his teammate in Hamlin.
Busch committed a penalty of his own with fewer than 60 laps remaining in the race. He went to pit road but did not get all four tires inside a specified orange box. He sped and slide his car sideways at the entrance of pit road, receiving a penalty for a commitment line violation.
A late wreck ruined Kevin Harvick’s strong performance
A nine-race winner in 2020, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick has struggled to replicate his success in 2021. He has six finishes in the top-10 but has not won a race just yet. Harvick’s best finish of the season was fourth in the wreck-filled Daytona 500.
Despite the early struggles, Harvick was performing well in the Toyota Owners 400. He ran in the top 10 the majority of the day and reached fourth place in the third and final stage. However, a late wreck ruined his outing. His right rear tire went flat on Turn 1, sending the No. 4 Ford Mustang into the wall. The collision destroyed the rear of Harvick’s car and ended his chances at another top-10 finish with 19 laps remaining in the race.
Harvick ultimately returned to the race and finished out his 400 laps. He even helped open the door for Bowman’s victory, moving out of the way on the final lap so the No. 48 could race by and become the eighth different car to win a race in nine weeks.
The NASCAR season will continue next Sunday with the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. The race will take place at 2 p.m. ET on Fox with Jeff Gordon, Mike Joy, and Clint Bowyer in the booth.