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Bowman manages Hendrick's charge

by The Associated Press | May 17, 2021 at 2:10 a.m.
Alex Bowman races during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Dover International Speedway, Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

DOVER, Del. -- Alex Bowman parked the No. 48 Chevrolet in its familiar spot in victory lane at Dover International Speedway, leading a dominant outing for Hendrick Motorsports on Sunday.

Bowman led Hendrick Motorsports to a sensational 1-2-3-4 finish in the NASCAR Cup Series races. Kyle Larson was second, Chase Elliott third and William Byron fourth.

How hot was Bowman?

His Chevy caught fire after the race.

"Help me Tom Cruise, I'm on fire," he said, channeling Ricky Bobby.

Bowman 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.

Gallery: NASCAR at Dover International Speedway

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

"Best race track on the schedule," 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 -- but will gladly take the checkered flag.

Bowman came from nowhere with 10 laps to go to win in April at Richmond and stole his first win of the season. Bowman joined Martin Truex Jr. as the only driver this season with multiple victories.

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 and led the final 98 laps. Larson led a race-high 263 laps.

"Their team just did a good job on getting control on the pit stop," Larson said. "I feel like I did everything I could."

Fans look on from the stands as some are still wearing mask and others are not during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Dover International Speedway, Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Fans look on from the stands as some are still wearing mask and others are not during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Dover International Speedway, Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Kyle Larson, left, leads the pack of Alex Bowman, center left, William Byron, center right, and Chase Elliott, right, during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Dover International Speedway, Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Kyle Larson, left, leads the pack of Alex Bowman, center left, William Byron, center right, and Chase Elliott, right, during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Dover International Speedway, Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
William Byron rounds the track during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Dover International Speedway, Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
William Byron rounds the track during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Dover International Speedway, Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Kyle Larson rounds the track during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Dover International Speedway, Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Kyle Larson rounds the track during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Dover International Speedway, Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
The trophy for a NASCAR Cup Series auto race is displayed with Martin Truex Jr. on the pole position before the race at Dover International Speedway, Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
The trophy for a NASCAR Cup Series auto race is displayed with Martin Truex Jr. on the pole position before the race at Dover International Speedway, Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
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