The NASCAR Cup Series roared into the capital city of Virginia on Sunday. Richmond Raceway played host to the Toyota Owners 400. The 3/4-mile track raced differently this week than the previous two short track races. Richmond got people talking one way or another, and Alex Bowman ultimately drove to his first win of the 2021 season.
NASCAR Cup Series Recap | Alex Bowman Wins at Richmond
Toyota Owners 400 Stage 1
Martin Truex Jr. would lead the field to the green and the race was underway. Things stayed clean all the way through the competition caution on lap 30. During the round of pit stops, Denny Hamlin’s crew executed to perfection enabling him to get off of pit road first ahead of Truex. That would be pretty much all the action in the first stage. The entire run was caution-free except for the competition and stage break cautions. Hamlin won Stage 1.
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Toyota Owners 400 Stage 2
Truex managed to reclaim the lead early on in the second stage. During a round of pitstops, Ryan Newman spun around, bringing out the first natural caution in over 600 laps at Richmond Raceway.
Brad Keselowski would make his only stop of the stage during this caution. His strategy of staying out backfired horribly as he got lapped by Hamlin before the end of the stage. Hamlin went on to sweep the two stages.
Toyota Owners 400 Final Stage
Hamlin led the field to the start of the final stage. Eventually, Joey Logano managed to get to the point just before the first round of pit stops. Kyle Busch was running well but into the pits too hot and wound up getting a commitment line violation as not all four tires were below the box. Kevin Harvick blew a right rear tire and hit the wall hard with less than 20 laps to go to bring out the second and final natural caution on the day.
Hamlin’s crew again came up clutch enabling him to get the lead on the “money stop”. But once again, it failed to stick for the No. 11 team. Alex Bowman got an incredible launch from third on the restart and was quickly challenging Hamlin for the lead. Bowman was able to successfully make the pass and went on to claim his first win of the 2021 NASCAR season.
Final Toyota Owners 400 Thoughts
What has happened to Richmond Raceway? The racing isn’t anywhere near as good as it used to be. The track has one more race this season to help with the public perception. Personally, it shouldn’t come off of the schedule until at least after the 2022 season. Give the Next Gen Car at least a chance to save it.
Alex Bowman’s win today marked the first for the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 car since the first Dover race back in 2017. It just so happened that this win came on the same day that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson made his debut in the NTT IndyCar Series. Of course, Johnson is the man who made the 48 great during his run of dominance.
The result also means that we also have now seen every Hendrick Motorsports driver win this season except for defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott. Next week could be the one for Elliott though, as the series travels to Talladega Superspeedwat, a place where he has won previously.