Sunday's motors: Alex Bowman parks No. 48 in familiar spot in victory lane at Dover

Associated Press

Dover, Del. — Moments after he smoked the field at Dover, Alex Bowman channeled fictional goofball NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby as flames simmered under the left rear of his Chevy.

“Help me Tom Cruise, I’m on fire,” he said, quoting a popular line from “Talladega Nights.”

At Hendrick Motorsports, if you ain’t first, you’re, well, at Dover it was second, third and fourth.

Alex Bowman celebrates Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series win at Dover International Speedway with his teammates.

Bowman parked the No. 48 Chevrolet in its familiar spot in victory lane at Dover International Speedway, leading a 1-2-3-4 finish for Hendrick Motorsports on Sunday.

Bowman — who described himself as a “race car driver slash weirdo” — led Hendrick to only the fourth top-four sweep by a single team in NASCAR Cup Series history. Kyle Larson led a race-high 263 laps and finished second, Chase Elliott was third and William Byron fourth.

The milestones kept coming at the Monster Mile. Hendrick Motorsports won its 267th career NASCAR race, one shy of the team record held by Petty Enterprises.

“I want to be the guy that get those wins for Mr. H,” Bowman said.

Not so fast, said Larson.

“I hope I’m the driver to do it,” Larson said.

Bowman — who added he’s “had my share of doubters” throughout his career — won his second race of the season and passed 1,000 laps led in his career. But the victory celebration at the Monster Mile had to seem familiar for Hendrick Motorsports. Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR champion now in IndyCar, won a track-record 11 times at Dover in the 48.

Turns out, Johnson’s successor is just as adept at handling the rigors of the concrete mile track.

“I try to run the Jimmie Johnson line,” Bowman said.

Bowman has followed two of NASCAR’s biggest superstars, first taking the wheel of the No. 88 after Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired and made the move to the 48 this season.

He’s tried to escape their large shadows by doing things his own way — though after early struggles in his career at Dover, he texted Johnson for tips that he followed to this day.

“You can’t be Jimmie Johnson light,” Hendrick said. “You’ve got to be Alex Bowman.”

Bowman and crew chief Greg Ives put their spin into the game plan and flawless pit road execution help the 48 win this season for the first time since April at Richmond. Bowman joined Martin Truex Jr. as the only driver this season with multiple victories.

Joey Logano of Joe Gibbs Racing was the best of the rest in fifth.

A year after fans were not allowed to attend and Dover held two Cup races on the same weekend, a sellout crowd of 20,000 fans was announced at the Monster Mile and they were ready to bust loose. Going mostly maskless — though Miles the Monster wore his — fans formed a deep line at the Chase Elliott souvenir hauler inside the fan zone. Dover also partnered with the Delaware Division of Public Health and about 100 fans received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine on Sunday and another 50 or so did the same a day earlier during the Xfinity race. While 20,000 fans were certainly dwarfed by the six-figure crowds that jammed Dover in the early aughts, this crowd was more festive compared to recent years. At least one fan in the grandstands dressed as Kyle Busch, others hugged and chugged beers, and some were comfortable asking strangers to snap photos as they posed for pictures in front of the 46-foot, car-crushing Monster statue.

They watched Larson lead a parade for all but a handful of laps into the third stage. Larson, who on Saturday made a virtual visit with students at the Urban Youth Racing School in Philadelphia, won the first two stages of the race and seemed poised to turn this race into a rout.

Bowman spoiled the run when he beat the No. 5 off pit road thanks to a 12-second stop and led the final 98 laps — one more reason why Hendrick is on the brink of signing the 28-year-old driver to a multi-year contract extension.

“I want to be there. They want me to drive their race cars,” Bowman said.

NHRA

John Force won yet again at age 72, topping the Funny Car field in the NGK NTK NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at Concord, North Carolina, for his record 152nd event victory.

Force beat J.R. Todd, Cruz Pedregon and Alexis DeJoria in the final with a 3.916-second run at 328.78 mph in a Chevrolet Camaro.

Steve Torrence won in Top Fuel, Dallas Glenn in Pro Stock and Steve Johnson in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Torrence powered his way to his fourth four-wide win in a row at zMAX Dragway with a 3.716 at 329.10. First-time winner Glenn had a 6.540 pass at 209.88 in a Camaro, and Johnson a 6.729 at 198.03 on a Suzuki.