Race Report: Bowman Wins Las Vegas in Overtime Battle with Larson

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — MARCH 6, 2022 -Hendrick Motorsports and Team Chevy get their 2nd win of the NASCAR Cup Series season at the Pennzoil 400 on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as Alex Bowman drove his № 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to victory. The race was well supported by the fans with roughly 70,000 seats filled, not quite a sellout, but few empty seats and very high energy. Fox Sports scored 4.54 million viewers, and the race was the highest viewed sporting event of the week according to the network. The LVMS staff elevated the fan experience with pre-race concerts in both the Neon Garage and on the main stage featuring country artists Midland as part of pre-race ceremonies. After bitter cold and snow, yes snow, during Saturday’s Xfinity race, fans experienced a warmer day on Sunday with crystal clear conditions.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — MARCH 6, 2022 Pre-race ceremonies at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 (Image Credit: Bob Francis — Go Full Throttle Racing News / gofullthrottle.net)

Stage 1 was a foreshadowing of things to come as the four Hendrick cars battled each other for points and Bowman demonstrated he had the speed by winning the stage with teammate William Byron in the № 24 AXALTA Chevrolet finishing P2, Chase Elliott in the № 9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet P5, and Kyle Larson in the № 5 Henrickcars.com Chevrolet P6. Also showing he had a very strong car was Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain in the № 1 ACM Chevrolet Camaro who ended stage 1 in P3. In fact, Chastain led a total of 83 laps during Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 and looked to be the car to beat when he took Stage 2 with Elliott P2, Larson P3, Byron P4, and Kyle Busch P5.

Credit: LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — MARCH 06: Ross Chastain, driver of the #1 ACM Awards Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Ethel M Chocolates Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

An Amazing JGR Team Effort
In addition to Chastain, Kyle Busch also looked strong and had the hometown crowd cheering on the №18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota as he led 49 laps and looked to be heading to Victory Lane late in the race. Adding to the excitement for 18 fans was how Kyle and his team overcame a significant crash in opening minutes of practice on Saturday forcing them to go to a backup car that was sent to Las Vegas primarily for spare parts. The JGR backup car even had Denny Hamiln’s name on it! The rebuild and re-wrap of the 18 car wasn’t completed in time for qualifying on Saturday so Busch started Sunday’s race dead last. He was in the top 5 at the end of Stage 2, but the tide really changed at Lap 220 of 274, during green flag pit stops when Busch cycled to the front and Kyle Larson was sent to the rear for a speeding penalty on pit road. The 18 was the leader at Lap 230, 240, and 250. “Everybody really had a hand in making us go today, really appreciate that,” Busch said, acknowledging crew members from all four JGR cars frantically worked to get his car race ready.

Credit: LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — MARCH 5: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Ethel M Chocolates Toyota, crashes during practice for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Image credit: FS1/Fox Media LLC and Fox Sports Interactive Media, LLC)

And Just Like That …
When it looked like Kyle Busch had the race in hand, leading in the closing laps, Erik Jones (№ 43 FOCUSFactor Petty GMS Chevy) got loose in Turn 4 and made hard contact with the wall, sending his car spinning across the Start/Finish line and bringing out a late caution flag. The result, NASCAR Overtime and a critical decision by the Crew Chiefs. Do you stay out on old tires? Do you pit for 2 tires? 2 tires didn’t seem likely given a few cars tried the 2-tire strategy earlier in the race with poor results. Or do you make the safe, 4 tire stop and hope everyone else does as well?

Credit: LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — MARCH 06: Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, and Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Answer: The two-tire stop proved to be the winning call
Bowman and Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and William Byron all took two tires on the final pit stop while Kyle Busch and Crew Chief Ben Beshore opted for four tires resulting in the 3 Hendrick cars getting off pit road first and Busch 4th. For the restart Bowman and Larson had row 1, Byron and Busch in row 2, and Chastain along side Busch’s JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr in the № 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota lined up in row 3 for the Green-White-Checker overtime 2 lap sprint for the win.

Bowman holds off Larson, Chastain, Busch, and Byron
Bowman went door to door with Larson to the white flag, but Larson lost the nose on the final lap and had to back off just enough to save it allowing Bowman to get clear. He crossed the line 0.178 seconds ahead of Larson to take his first win of 2022 and the seventh Cup win of his career.

Credit: LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — MARCH 06: Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Pennzoil 400 Top 10 Finishers
P1 Alex Bowman, № 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
P2 Kyle Larson, № 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
P3 Ross Chastain, № 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet
P4 Kyle Busch, № 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
P5 Willam Byron, № 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
P6 Aric Almirola, № 10 Stewart-Hass Racing Ford
P7 Tyler Reddick, № 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
P8 Martin Truex Jr, № 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
P9 Chase Elliott, № 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
P10 Christopher Bell, № 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

For the 2nd straight week, Team Chevy takes the win and places 6 cars in the top 10. For Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola finishes with his third consecutive top 10, bringing the 10 car home in 6th place. Toyota/TRD fans also had the bright spot of Christopher Bell setting the fastest qualifying time to earn the Pole Position. In a spirited race that again demonstrated the parity NASCAR is hoping to achieve with the Gen 7 car, there were 23 lead changes among 15 different drivers.

Race Notes:
NASCAR is still working with Goodyear and the race teams on how to solve the flat tire issue. The Gen 7 car has an 18" wheel with a low-profile tire, making it unable to run an inter-liner. That combined with the low ride height of the car has left cars with flatted tires stranded on the race track. After last weeks race in Fontana, NASCAR issued the following comment: “There’s ongoing conversations in meetings to be able to get to a better place on that,” NASCAR VP of Officiating and Technical Inspection Elton Sawyer stated. “We made an adjustment last week at Auto Club Speedway to lead the drivers in and get them back to pit road. Our goal is not to put drivers out of the race. That’s not what we want. We want our stars to be able to perform. It’s just some learnings and we felt that we got to a decent place …”

Wheel/Tire Preparation Changes
Crews have traded the pre-race ritual of gluing lug nuts for the new process of polishing the mounting hole of the aluminum wheels to avoid the “hanging up” while installing a new wheel some experienced at Daytona.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — MARCH 6, 2022 Pre-race wheel prep in the No 12 Blaney — Team Penske pit at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 (Image Credit: Bob Francis — Go Full Throttle Racing News / gofullthrottle.net)

Up next: Phoenix Raceway -Ruoff Mortgage 500
We will be reporting live from Phoenix Raceway this weekend, March 11–13, 2022 with all the action. This week you can look for the updated #GFTaiDriverRankings and more on the ongoing story of how NASCAR is trying to address Cup cars being stuck on the track with flat tires.
All on our website https://gofullthrottle.net/ and real-time updates on our Twitter feed

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Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle

Go Full Throttle editors and reporters bring you news & commentary on NASCAR, F1, IndyCar, and World of Outlaws. Member: National Motorsports Press Association