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Bowman breaks winless streak in chaotic, rainy Chicago street race

Written by Sean McKean

Credit - Meg Oliphant / NASCAR Digital Media

Through hours of delays that saw the race come down to a time limit, it was Hendrick’s Alex Bowman who survived the tricky conditions to take victory in Chicago. This is Bowman’s first win in 80 races – his first since suffering two injuries in 2022 and 2023 respectively.

As it unfolded

Although it was slated to be a dry race, the rain started to sprinkle down as the command was given. Subsequently, NASCAR allowed the teams to have a reconnaissance lap so the teams could figure out what tyre to start on.

When the green flag dropped, Kyle Larson faltered from pole position, allowing Ty Gibbs to take a decisive lead into Turn 1. Larson fell back to third, which soon became fourth once Shane van Gisbergen began his march through the field.

On Lap 4, Michael McDowell and a few other cars in the top 20 peeled into the pits. With the rain starting to pick up in some sections, they lost confidence in the grip slicks would give them.

Van Gisbergen survived brief pressure from Larson to take second away from Tyler Reddick on Lap 8. He then set his sights on the leader Gibbs. 

By Lap 10, van Gisbergen had caught up to Gibbs, aided by Harrison Burton holding up the leader on cold wet tyres. 

More lapped traffic for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver on Lap 12 opened the door for the Kiwi driver, who took the lead after slicing lapped traffic three-wide. In this lapped traffic melee, the whole top six were wrapped within two seconds.

The first incident of the race occurred on Lap 13, with Ricky Stenhouse going for a spin in Turn 1. He drove away without damage.

Christopher Bell – having had this race stolen from him last year – got by Gibbs and quickly started pressuring the three-time V8 Supercars champion on Lap 16. 

But before Bell could size up the move, the first caution of the race came out. On entry to Turn 5, Spire’s Corey Lajoie put too much pressure on the throttle – resulting in him losing the rear and going for a spin into the inside wall. With the positioning of his car, the caution had to be thrown.

The caution was well-timed for the slick runners, as the rain really started to come down. Furthermore, this caution ended the stage: “SVG” crossed the line first, followed by Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs behind.

Under this yellow, Zane Smith – fresh off a career best second in Nashville – reported he was having a steering column issue. 

Out of pit road, van Gisbergen was beaten out by Bell, Gibbs, and Larson – the former of them inheriting the lead. But coming out of the pits, Bowman bottle-necked Wallace into the tyre barrier, resulting in a minor stack-up. However, no one suffered damage from the incident.

After a few laps of pacing, the green flag came back out on Lap 25 with Zane Smith leading the way. Gibbs quickly dispatched of Smith to take the lead, but behind, Bubba Wallace was tagged by Alex Bowman, being sent into a spin which cornered Daniel Suarez.

Only a few corners later, Chase Briscoe locked up going into Turn 6 and slid driver-side-first into the tyre barrier. Surprisingly, he drove away unscathed. However, with Briscoe’s spin, he tagged van Gisbergen into the wall – putting the Kiwi driver out of the race.

Van Gisbergen's retirement changed the complexion of the race | Credit - Meg Oliphant / NASCAR Digital Media

The red flag soon came out for the rain picking up. Following the aquaplane from Briscoe, NASCAR race control were not taking chances, seemingly. The delay lasted for an hour and 40 minutes.

Procedures would be a little different for future restarts. To avoid the potential of more yellows due to a time crunch, NASCAR only allowed single-file restarts.

With only an hour of daylight remaining, most teams stayed out, as they were solid with fuel and tyre concerns. However, how quickly the track would dry was up in the air.

The race went back to green on Lap 31 led by Ty Gibbs. Aside from Smith tumbling out of the top five, the frontrunners remained unchanged.

While Bell took the lead from Gibbs, a crash occurred in Turn 6 between Denny Hamlin and Ricky Stenhouse. Hamlin locked up going into the corner, tagging Stenhouse into the tyre barrier with him. Although it took a while to get fired back up, no caution came out for the incident. 

On Lap 34, a major frontrunner went out of the race. With seemingly no chance of slowing down, Kyle Larson locked up going into Turn 6 and slammed the tyre barrier. Ty Gibbs was tagged but did not hit anything. Larson went out of the race with terminal damage.

Now a race against the dwindling clock, the green flag came back out on Lap 38 with Bell keeping the lead. A few surprises emerged in the top five – such as Todd Gilliland in fourth and John Hunter Nemechek in fifth.

On the same lap, Josh Berry and Chase Briscoe found themselves in the tyre barrier in Turn 4, both having locked up in separate incidents. They kept going with no yellow flag.

More movement occurred on Lap 40 within the top five as Gilliland and Nemechek got by Reddick for third and fourth respectively. This allowed Bell and Gibbs to break away and have a battle of their own.

On the same lap, yet another car locked up into the Turn 6 tyre barrier – this time, Ryan Preece. Unlike Larson, though, he continued on. 

Although Bell looked likely to sneak away with stage victory, he and everyone else in the top 12 had to come in for fuel and slick tyres. 

During this pit sequence, two crashes occurred. The first was from Austin Dillon, who – like many others today – locked up into the Turn 6 tyre barrier. The second was from Josh Berry once more, who hit the tyre barrier coming out of pit road. Both drivers continued on.

With so many drivers pitting, it allowed RFK’s Stage 60 entry, piloted by Joey Hand, to take victory in the second stage. He was followed by Alex Bowman and Brad Keselowski.

The drivers who had stayed out for the end of the stage had a hard decision to make: stay out or go down pit road with only 20 minutes of race time left? Unsurprisingly, most chose to stay out. This decision was further aided by the lap times the now-slicks runners were setting, which were very off the pace.

With 15 minutes left, Joey Hand led the field to the green flag. While Bowman started to pressure him, Martin Truex went into fourth. 

Tyler Reddick's car came alive at race's end | Credit - James Gilbert / Getty Images

Bowman soon stole the lead from Hand with only 12 minutes remaining. And right as he did, Josh Berry crashed yet again in Turn 2. This brought out the caution, which would prove critical with little time left on the clock.

Only four and a half minutes remained as Bowman led the field to the green. However, Christopher Bell on the slick tyres started slicing through the field, now with the tyre advantage. 

But that advantage was gone in a split-second. A tag from Truex sent Hocevar into Bell, putting all three into the wall. No caution came out, but all were damaged and out of contention. The advantage was now given to Tyler Reddick, who moved into third.

With a lap and a half remaining, slicks-equipped Reddick dispatched of Hand and moved into second. He now set his sights on wets-equipped Bowman.

However, Alex Bowman survived the pressure to take victory in Chicago – breaking an 80-race winless streak. This win was also his first at a road course. Tyler Reddick and Ty Gibbs charged hard at the end, but ultimately had to settle for second and third. Joey Hand took a surprising fourth-placed finish followed by Michael McDowell in fifth.

Provisional Results:

  1. #48 Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports)

  2. #45 Tyler Reddick (23XI Racing)

  3. #54 Ty Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing)

  4. #60 Joey Hand (Roush Fenway-Keselowski)

  5. #34 Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports)

  6. #47 Ricky Stenhouse (JTG Daugherty Racing)

  7. #38 Todd Gilliland (Front Row Motorsports)

  8. #24 William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports)

  9. #8 Kyle Busch (Richard Childress Racing)

  10. #12 Ryan Blaney (Penske Racing)

  11. #99 Daniel Suarez (Team Trackhouse)

  12. #31 Daniel Hemric (Kaulig Racing)

  13. #23 Bubba Wallace (23XI Racing)

  14. #10 Noah Gragson (Stewart-Haas Racing)

  15. #2 Austin Cindric (Penske Racing)

  16. #51 Justin Haley (Rick Ware Racing)

  17. #71 Zane Smith (Spire Motorsports)

  18. #6 Brad Keselowski (Roush Fenway-Keselowski)

  19. #3 Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing)

  20. #17 Chris Buescher (Roush Fenway-Keselowski)

  21. #9 Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports)

  22. #1 Ross Chastain (Team Trackhouse)

  23. #22 Joey Logano (Penske Racing)

  24. #77 Carson Hocevar (Spire Motorsports)

  25. #21 Harrison Burton (Wood Brothers Racing)

  26. #15 Kaz Grala (Rick Ware Racing)

  27. #7 Corey Lajoie (Spire Motorsports)

  28. #66 Josh Bilicki (MBM Motorsports)

  29. #43 Erik Jones (Legacy Motor Club)

  30. #11 Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing)

  31. #33 Austin Hill (Richard Childress Racing)

  32. #14 Chase Briscoe (Stewart-Haas Racing)

  33. #19 Martin Truex (Joe Gibbs Racing)

  34. #41 Ryan Preece (Stewart-Haas Racing)

  35. #42 John Hunter Nemechek (Legacy Motor Club) [DNF]

  36. #4 Josh Berry (Stewart-Haas Racing) [DNF]

  37. #20 Christopher Bell (Joe Gibbs Racing) [DNF]

  38. #13 AJ Allmendinger (Kaulig Racing) [DNF]

  39. #5 Kyle Larson (Hendrick Motorsports) [DNF]

  40. #16 Shane van Gisbergen (Kaulig Racing) [DNF]


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