The NASCAR Cup Series regular-season hit the halfway point on Sunday. The Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway marked the 13th race of the season. The ‘Monster Mile’ provided the usual thrilling high-speed action that NASCAR fans have come to expect. In the end, it was a dominant day for the entire Hendrick Motorsports garage, with Alex Bowman picking up his second win of the 2021 season.
NASCAR Race Recap | Alex Bowman Wins at Dover
Drydene 400 Stage 1
As has become a common theme in the weekly NASCAR recap articles, we had a few pre-race penalties that forced some drivers to start at the back of the field. Chase Elliott and Ryan Newman were this week’s violations. The No. 77 Spire Motorsports car also had to start at the rear but for a different reason. NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash winner Josh Berry made his Cup Series debut on Sunday. He filled in for Justin Haley, who was not allowed to race because of the Wuhan Virus.
Martin Truex Jr. jumped out to the lead early off of the Drydene 400 green flag. William Byron moved forward quickly and would get past the No. 19 before the competition caution at Lap 35. Byron was just beaten off of pit road by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson. The two drove nearly the entire length of the narrow Dover International Speedway pit lane side-by-side.
Larson held the pole off of the restart and Kevin Harvick got by Byron and into second. From there, things settled out for the remainder of Stage 1. Other noteworthy events included Elliott making his way into the top-5 after starting 36th. Larson built up a lead of more than eight seconds and lapped half of the field.
On the final lap of Stage 1, Chase Briscoe cut a tire down and went into the wall while trying to stay on the lead lap. This brought on a yellow and the stage ended under caution. Larson earned his fifth stage win of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, and all four Hendrick cars finished in the top-8.
Drydene 400 Stage 2
Chase Elliott picked up two more spots on the pit stops between stages and surged into second off the restart. 30 laps into Stage 2, the No. 9 car was the only one hanging within five seconds of Kyle Larson.
A few cars had equipment issues early on in the Drydene 400. Kyle Busch had fallen seven down in the first stage due to being short a cylinder. The No.18 team was able to fix the problem and his lap times in the early portion of Stage 2 were comparable to the leaders. Meanwhile, William Byron had shotty breaks throughout the day.
🔊 Listen to Burnt Rubber Racing on wherever you get your podcasts!
About 50 laps into the stage, Josh Berry had his right front go down and got into the wall. NASCAR didn’t throw the yellow right away, but Berry couldn’t get down to pit road due to traffic so the caution did come out. Ryan Blaney pitted early from third to repair a tire rub and small hole on the front grill. The team wisely chose to just take a penalty and restart at the tail end of the lead lap to have extra time to repair the car. Later on, it was revealed that the damage was caused by debris from Chase Briscoe’s car.
Alex Bowman continued picking off cars and eventually got by Denny Hamlin for fourth. That ensured all four Hendrick Motorsports cars were running 1-4 for about the final 25 laps of the stage. Larson remained the best of the bunch, sweeping the Drydene 400 stages.
Drydene 400 Final Stage
Alex Bowman managed to get off pit road ahead of Chase Elliott, leaving him behind only Kyle Larson at the start of the final stage. Hendrick Motorsports continued to dominate, but before green flag pit stops could begin, Aric Almirola hit the wall hard after blowing a right front tire. He was staggering after climbing out of the car but was later released from the infield care center. A rough season continued for the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing team.
During the caution pit stops, Bowman’s crew pulled off the winning pass of the race. The No. 48 pulled out ahead of Larson and took over a lead he would never relinquish. Just six laps after the restart, another caution was thrown for a piece of debris on the track. Eight lead lap cars opted to stay out while the rest pitted to try and make something work. It proved to be to no avail. In fact, staying out enabled Daniel Suarez to cash in with top-10 finishes. Bubba Wallace also held on to finish 11th, the best run of the maiden season for 23XI Racing.
The final yellow came when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got into the back of Anthony Alfredo and sent him spinning around. Only a few cars opted to pit this time, a move that Joey Logano was able to convert into a top-5 run. Cole Custer also used his fresh tires to drive into the top-10.
In the end, it was Bowman the Showman’s day at Dover International Speedway. All four Hendrick cars were the class of the field, but Bowman was the best of the best. The final margin of victory over Kyle Larson exceeded two seconds. Elliott took third and William Byron stayed ahead of Logano to give Hendrick a 1-2-3-4 finish. It marked the fourth time in NASCAR Cup Series history that a single race team took home each of the top four spots in a race.
Final NASCAR Drydene 400 Thoughts
Personally, the racing was really enjoyable throughout the Drydene 400 and all weekend at Dover International Speedway for that matter. The Xfinity Series race on Saturday provided plenty of action as well. The real takeaway from this NASCAR recap though is the sheer dominance Hendrick Motorsports displayed on Sunday. The average driver age in the Hendrick garage is just 26 years old. If Rick Hendrick can keep this quartet together, something tells me there will be plenty more championships in the coming years.
Dover also called their shot in a way. The No. 48 Chevrolet was the featured car in the grip of Miles the Monster this year. How fitting that Alex Bowman drove it to victory lane. With the NASCAR Cup Serries going road racing at Circuit of the Americas next week, Chase Elliott is a great bet to give Hendrick back-to-back wins.