Bowman Beats The Clock For Strategic Chicago Win


Alex Bowman celebrates after winning Sunday's Grant Park 165 at the Chicago Street Course. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo)

CHICAGO – All Alex Bowman needed to snap his 80-race winless drought in the NASCAR Cup Series was a well-timed countdown clock and a Hail Mary strategy call by crew chief Blake Harris Sunday at the Chicago Street Circuit.

With an hour-and-43-minute rain delay creating a time-certain finish to the Grant Park 165, Harris instructed Bowman to stay out on wet tires during the second stage break, anticipating that the 2.2-mile street course in downtown Chicago, Ill., wouldn’t dry out enough for the drivers on slicks to get back to the front by the end.

That gamble ultimately paid out in spades, as Bowman restarted second, drove past road-course ace Joey Hand in turn four on the 51st lap and then held off a hard-charging Tyler Reddick in the closing minutes.

The end result was Bowman’s first Cup Series triumph since March 6, 2022, at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway.

Aided by a lap-52 yellow flag for Josh Berry’s shunt in turn two, which diminished the running clock down to less than five minutes of green flag time, Bowman led the final eight laps of competition.

It gives the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team a guaranteed berth into the playoffs for the first time in two years, something Bowman admitted he “never could have bet on” prior to race time Sunday.

“Anytime you go to the racetrack with Hendrick Motorsports, you’ve got a shot, but man … a lot of people probably didn’t see this coming, right?” Bowman said after climbing from his car in a cloud of burnout smoke.

“This is such a big deal,” he added. “We have a trophy to take home, and I know it means a lot to this team. They put me in position to win the race, for sure.”

van Gisbergen

Shane van Gisbergen in action just before heavy rain came Sunday at the Chicago Street Course. (HHP/Jacy Norgaard photo)

Pre-race favorite Shane van Gisbergen won the first stage Sunday, but was collected with Chase Briscoe in a lap-24 crash at turn six as rain began falling heavily in downtown Chicago, ending the Kiwi’s race.

Two storm systems followed as the red flag was displayed, leading to 103 minutes of down time and forcing NASCAR officials to set an 8:20 p.m. local time cutoff point for racing due to the lengthy delay.

That sent teams scrambling to crunch the numbers and figure out if they could make it on fuel based on the estimated number of laps left, as well as the lap time difference between wet-weather and slick tires.

Racing resumed on lap 31 – in the middle of stage two – with Christopher Bell getting the measure of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Ty Gibbs early in the run as drivers and teams battled both the spray on the course and the competition around them.

However, Bell and Gibbs led a group of nearly 20 cars down pit road just before the second stage break that believed a change to slicks at that point would allow them to stay out later on and regain their track position.

Hand and Bowman elected to remain on track through the end of stage two, though, circling that track position as the key to success. Their decision was the one that worked out in the end.

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Hand, the two-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winner and past American Le Mans Series sports car champion, led the field back to green following the stage caution with 48 laps in and 14 minutes to go on the countdown clock. Bowman was right there to apply heavy pressure, knowing what a win would mean.

Two laps after that restart was when the winning move was made at turn four, but the final caution for Berry’s crash set up an electric finish when the final lap rolled around.

The last restart came with four and a half minutes remaining, and Bell initially looked to be the driver in position on slicks, before a late slide off turn two by Martin Truex Jr. pinched the No. 20 Toyota into the wall and scuttled his chances at stealing the laurels.

Moments later, Gibbs and third-running Brad Keselowski also traded paint, letting Reddick scoot through into a top-three position with only Hand and Bowman to try and chase down.

Once the clock had run out, Reddick ducked past Hand in turn four to take second place with less than two laps to go, but he clipped the right-side jersey barrier at turn five on the white-flag lap while reeling in Bowman and lost too much time and track distance as a result.

That left Bowman clear to coast to the finish line, while Reddick settled for a bitter runner-up finish.

“I clearly just screwed up,” a disgusted Reddick remarked. “I cut the wheel a little too hard. Just not focused enough, I guess.”

Ty Gibbs crossed third, followed by Hand, who earned his first Cup Series top-five in fourth with RFK Racing’s #Stage60 entry.

Michael McDowell, who was 32nd at the rain delay, rallied late for fifth ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Todd Gilliland, William Byron, Kyle Busch, and defending Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney.

Pole winner Kyle Larson, who never led a lap Sunday but was in contention for the first third of the race, overcooked the entry to turn six on lap 34 and plowed nose-first into the tire barrier, eliminating him from the race and leaving the regular season point leader 39th in the final results.


Alex Bowman (48) leads a line of cars Sunday at the Chicago Street Course. (HHP/Chris Owens photo)

As Larson sat in the garage, Bowman was busy celebrating his eighth career Cup Series win and first on a road course at the sport’s top level.

It also was his first time back in victory lane since an April 2023 sprint car crash at Iowa’s 34 Raceway where the 31-year-old fractured a vertebra in his back, which caused Bowman to miss four races.

That led to a meaningful reflection from the Tucson, Ariz., native, who admitted he wasn’t sure at times if he’d ever return to the winner’s circle after all he’d been through in recent years.

“Man, I broke my back, had a brain injury [at Texas Motor Speedway in 2022] … and we’ve kind of sucked ever since,” Bowman noted. “You start to second-guess if you're ever going to get a chance to win a race again.

“The last time we won, we didn’t really get to celebrate — so we’re going to drink so much damn bourbon tonight,” he added with a devilish grin. “It’s going to be a bad deal. I’m probably going to wake up naked on the bathroom floor again. That’s just part of this deal sometimes.

“We won it, though, and that’s what we needed.”

NASCAR Cup Series teams will return to action next at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway during the Great American Getaway 400 presented by

Broadcast coverage is slated for Sunday, July 14 at 2:30 p.m. ET, live on USA, the Motor Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.