TALLADEGA, Ala – Chevrolet needed this in a big way. Hendrick Motorsports needed it in a big way. Heck, Alex Bowman needed it in a big way. Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the Talladega Superspeedway gave the bowtie camp a burst of energy.
See, after the first nine races to the 2019 season, Chevy had failed to win a single race. It was their worst losing streak to start a NASCAR season ever. Furthermore, if you go back to last season, the last trip to victory lane by a Chevy driver was 13 races ago at the Kansas Speedway.
In Sunday’s GEICO 500, not only did Chevy finish 1-2-3-4, they dominated the day. At the end of each stage, they were at least 1-2-3 in all three. When the yellow flag that was displayed on the final lap was shown, it capped a wonderful day for not just the manufacturer, but HMS too.
Chase Elliott earned his fourth career win while Alex Bowman earned his best career finish. Bowman, followed Elliott across the finish line on the 2.66-mile track for his first runner-up in NASCAR’s premiere series.
“Big props to Chevrolet and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports,” said Bowman after earning his first top 10 finish of the season. “They brought great race cars here. We had a great Nationwide Chevy from the time we unloaded. We showed a lot of speed. We all stuck to our plans and executed really well. Props to everybody back at home at Hendrick Motorsports and the fab shop and the engine shop and everybody that makes this deal possible.”
It was the finish Bowman needed. After winning the pole for the 2018 Daytona 500, Bowman struggled. In his first season at HMS, Bowman had just 11 top 10 finishes, only three of those being in the top five.
Chase Elliott leads Alex Bowman during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 28, 2019 in Talladega, Alabama.
That’s not very Hendrick like.
But, neither was the last few seasons overall for HMS. Since Jimmie Johnson won his record tying seventh Cup championship in 2016, his stats have declined each season. William Byron struggled as a rookie in 2018 too. Only Chase Elliott had any kind of success.
So, for HMS to finish 1-2 and Bowman to get a runner-up, it was great for the entire organization. Bowman’s last top 10 finish was in that same race that Elliott won at Kansas. It’s a good shot in the arm for him to get his season going.
Despite that, Bowman thinks that if the caution never came out, that he had a great shot of winning in fact.
“There was no plan coming off Turn 4, but unfortunately we didn’t get there before the caution came out.,” said the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet. “I’m not just going to let him win, right? I’ve got to try. I knew I could get to his quarter panel. I was pretty confident I could get to his quarter panel in the tri-oval and who knows who’s going to get to the line first at that point. I thought I could do it, but it depends on the car behind you and where he goes. It would have been fun to try, but I’m happy for Chase. … I’m glad to kind of turn things around. It’s been a rough start to the year and these guys deserve way better than the finishes they’ve had. So, to come home second is not a win, but it’s headed in the right direction.”
Now, the Cup Series heads to Dover then Kansas, the site of two wins for Elliott last year. Bowman, has a chance to get that win soon.