26 May--Alex Bowman wins the Pocono Organics CBD 325 at the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA.(HHP/AlanMarler)
Alex Bowman celebrates winning at Pocono Raceway Saturday. (HHP/Alan Marler photo)

Larson’s Pocono Misfortune Leads To Bowman’s Triumph

LONG POND, Pa. – Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway was a reminder that, sometimes, the adage “It’s never over until the checkered flag,” still rings true.

Alex Bowman stole the win in the Pocono Organics CBD 325 with a last-corner pass of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson, who cut a tire going into turn three and hit the wall as a result.

Larson, who appeared set to capture his fourth-straight points-paying win at NASCAR’s top level, limped across the finish line in ninth while Bowman swept past for his third victory of the season.

RESULTS: Cup Series Pocono Organics CBD 325

Bowman’s triumph extended Hendrick Motorsports’ Cup Series run of victories to six races in a row.

It was the Tucson, Ariz., native’s fifth career Cup Series win and the first time he visited victory lane at the 2.5-mile track known as the Tricky Triangle.

Despite the positive outcome, Bowman was almost apologetic after climbing from his car on the frontstretch, knowing that his teammate had the best car for most of the afternoon.

“I hate to win one that way, but hell yeah, I’ll take it,” Bowman said. “I’m super proud of this Ally 48 team. Can’t say enough about everybody at Team Hendrick right now, from the body shop to the engine shop to the chassis shop … top to bottom, everybody is putting great race cars on the race track.

“Greg (Ives, crew chief) and all the guys did a really good job. We didn’t run that well all day, so I’m kind of in shock. I don’t know what to say.”

A caution with 23 laps left for debris in turn two set up a late restart, with Bowman and Kyle Busch lining up on the front row via the choose rule for a 19-lap sprint to the checkered flag.

As it turned out, Bowman’s decision to take the inside line for the restart paid major dividends, as a shove from behind by Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell propelled the No. 48 Chevrolet out to the lead when the green flag waved for the final time.

Larson quickly slipped past Busch for second and set his sights on his teammate, closing in on Bowman’s bumper at the 15-to-go mark and dogging Bowman as the laps clicked off on the scoreboard.

The Elk Grove, Calif., native had looks underneath Bowman for the top spot with nine and seven laps to go, respectively, but both times Bowman was able to muster enough drive off the corner to hold on.

2021 Cup Series Pocono 1 Alex Bowman Kyle Larson Battle Dave Moulthrop Photo
Alex Bowman (48) leads Kyle Larson late Saturday at Pocono Raceway. (Dave Moulthrop photo)

However, working lap 127, Larson finally got enough of a run off of turn two to work to Bowman’s outside before completing the pass in turn three. From there, it appeared the die was cast.

Larson escaped to a nearly one-second lead as Bowman worked to hold off Busch for second place, and at the white flag most onlookers were prepared for Larson’s fifth win this season to come to pass.

But Larson’s left-front tire went down in the short chute, sending his No. 5 Chevrolet into the outside wall in turn three and allowing Bowman to scoot through to the victory by .683 seconds over Busch.

After taking a mandatory trip to the infield care center, Larson simply shook his head when asked to describe his emotions about the turn of events that took place on the final lap.

“I think I’m in disbelief still,” Larson admitted. “It’s a little bit laughable, just because I can’t believe it. I hate that we didn’t get another win. It would have been cool to win five [weeks] in a row. It just wasn’t meant to be today, I guess.

“I felt something right in the middle of the tunnel [turn]. I wasn’t quite sure what it was at that point,” Larson explained. “[The tire] finally shredded halfway through the short chute there and I couldn’t turn. Even though we didn’t get the win, it’s cool that Alex still did … to keep Mr. H’s streak going.

“We’ll just try to start another streak tomorrow.”

Behind Bowman and Busch, William Byron crossed the line third, followed by Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney.

Kurt Busch, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick were sixth through eighth, respectively, with Larson and Keselowski closing the top 10.

Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch split the two stage wins Saturday, marking the first Cup Series race since Circuit of the Americas on May 23 that Larson failed to win at least one stage.

By virtue of his 20th-place result Saturday, Chris Buescher will start from the Busch Pole in Sunday’s Explore the Pocono Mountains 350 due to an inversion of the top-20 finishers.