Kyle Larson dominates but Alex Bowman wins at Dover in a Hendrick 1-2-3-4

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DOVER, DELAWARE - MAY 16: Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, races during the NASCAR Cup Series Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway on May 16, 2021 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Alex Bowman has two wins in 2021.(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Alex Bowman got his second win of the season at Dover with an assist from clean air as Hendrick Motorsports swept the top four spots.

Bowman took the lead when his pit crew got him off pit road first on lap 304. He then led the final 96 laps of the race as teammate Kyle Larson was unable to pass him and became the second driver to have multiple wins in 2021.

Larson looked to have the dominant car in Sunday's race. But the final 96 laps of the race showed that the dominance had a lot to do with the clean air that comes with being at the front of the field. Larson couldn't mount a challenge to Bowman over the two restarts that followed Bowman taking the lead and ended up finishing second despite leading 263 of the race's 400 laps.

Hendrick's Chase Elliott finished third while William Byron was fourth. The top non-Hendrick driver was Joey Logano in fifth. It's the first time in team history that Hendrick cars have finished in the top four spots. The team famously finished 1-2-3 in the 1997 Daytona 500 with Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte and Ricky Craven. 

"I don't think it will hit me until maybe tomorrow that we were able to finish 1-2-3-4," team owner Rick Hendrick said.

Clean air was king on Sunday despite NASCAR reducing downforce and increasing horsepower at Dover. The race was run with NASCAR's 750 horsepower and lesser downforce rules setup and produced a different driving style for drivers and teams. It didn't, however, produce appreciably different racing. The same milquetoast Dover that we've seen for the past decade was on full display on Sunday. 

That had nothing to do with Hendrick's dominance. What the team did on Sunday is remarkable. But track position was key. Hendrick's drivers and teams established themselves in the top five early in the race. And they stayed there as cars were unable to make up significant ground through the field over the course of the race.

Martin Truex Jr.'s bad day

Truex entered Sunday's race as the only driver with more than one win. And he started first. But his day went south after he got some damage on the nose of his car early in the race.

Truex apparently damaged the nose of his car when he hit a lapped car trying to get debris off his grille. A short time later on lap 16, Byron passed Truex for the lead and Truex never sniffed the front of the field again.

The No. 19 team put some tape on the nose of the car to fix the damage but Truex never got his track position back. He ran outside the top 10 for most of the second half of the race and ultimately finished 19th and a lap down. 

Aric Almirola finishes last

Aric Almirola's terrible season continued on Sunday when he crashed out of the race because of a right front failure in the third stage. 

Almirola was visibly shaken from the impact when he got out of his car but was treated and released from the infield care center. He entered Sunday's race 28th in the standings and will need a miracle win at this point to make the playoffs. 

"That was another hard hit," Almirola said. "My body is hurting. It doesn’t want to take any more hard hits like that. It’s just such a trying year. I don’t know what exactly happened. I think something in the suspension broke. It wasn’t like a right-front went down. It wasn’t like all of a sudden."

Kyle Busch's engine issue sets him back early

Kyle Busch had a problem with his engine early in the race. He quickly fell off the pace and fell multiple laps down. The team figured that Busch would just run his car until the engine failed.

Well, the engine didn't fail. The team got the issue fixed during the race and got Busch back to full speed. But he was seven laps down by the time that happened.

Busch still improved his position throughout the final stage of the race, however. He ended up finishing 27th after he was 37th when he was seven laps down.

Race results

1. Alex Bowman

2. Kyle Larson

3. Chase Elliott

4. William Byron

5. Joey Logano

6. Kevin Harvick

7. Denny Hamlin

8. Tyler Reddick

9. Daniel Suarez

10. Cole Custer

11. Bubba Wallace

12. Ryan Blaney

13. Kurt Busch

14. Austin Dillon

15. Ross Chastain

16. Brad Keselowski

17. Chris Buescher

18. Ryan Preece

19. Martin Truex Jr.

20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

21. Christopher Bell

22. Erik Jones

23. Ryan Newman

24. Matt DiBenedetto

25. Michael McDowell

26. Corey LaJoie

27. Kyle Busch

28. Anthony Alfredo

29. Quin Houff

30. Josh Berry

31. Cody Ware

32. Garrett Smithley

33. James Davison

34. Josh Bilicki

35. Chase Briscoe

36. BJ McLeod

37. Aric Almirola

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