Bowman clinches berth with win at rainy Chicago (2024)

  • Associated Press

Jul 7, 2024, 09:55 PM ET

CHICAGO -- At long last, Alex Bowman got a win. And a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

So yeah, he was ready to party.

"We're going to drink so much damn bourbon tonight, it's going to be a bad deal," a jubilant Bowman said. "I'm probably going to wake up naked on the bathroom floor again. That's just part of this deal sometimes."

Bowman held off Tyler Reddick on a rainy street course in downtown Chicago on Sunday, stopping an 80-race winless drought.

It was his first victory since Las Vegas in March 2022 and No. 8 for his career. He is the 12th Cup Series driver to win this year, leaving four remaining spots in the playoffs with six races left in the regular season.

After his Vegas victory two years ago, Bowman, 31, was sidelined by a concussion. He injured his back in a short-track accident in April 2023.

"You start to second-guess if you're ever going to get a chance to win a race again," he said.

Not anymore.

The Cup Series' second street race in Chicago was stopped for more than 100 minutes because of rain, and NASCAR set a cutoff time of 8:20 p.m. CDT because of the fading sunlight. When Bowman crossed the start-finish line after that time, the white flag came out, followed by the checkered.

Reddick made a late charge, but he got into a wall while trying to run down Bowman. Ty Gibbs was third, followed by Joey Hand and Michael McDowell.

"I got the opportunity to run him down," Reddick said. "Just obviously couldn't get the job done. A clean lap was all I had to do and couldn't even do that."

Bowman closed it out on wet-weather tires in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet after pole sitter Kyle Larson and Shane van Gisbergen were knocked out.

During the cool-down lap, Bowman was bumped into the wall by Bubba Wallace. Bowman spun out Wallace early in the race.

"I have to apologize again to the 23 guys," Bowman said. "Just messed up, trying to get my windshield wiper on, missed a corner and ruined their day. I hate that. I'm still embarrassed about it."

Larson slammed into the tire barrier in Turn 6 on Lap 34, bringing out a caution. He was trying for his fourth win of the season in his 350th career Cup Series start.

"As soon as I hit the brakes, I knew I was in trouble," said Larson, who has an 11-point lead over Chase Elliott in the driver standings.

Van Gisbergen was clipped by Chase Briscoe going into Turn 6 on Lap 25. Briscoe slid into a tire barrier, but van Gisbergen crashed into the temporary wall -- causing heavy damage to the right side of his Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.

"I just sort of turned in. It looked pretty good and then just got smacked by someone," van Gisbergen said. "It's gutting."

Shortly after the wreck, the race was stopped to give NASCAR time to clear standing water from the makeshift track. The drivers returned to their cars about an hour later, but the delay continued when another storm cell passed over the course.

Gibbs was in front when the race resumed, followed by Christopher Bell and Larson.

"It's really fun. I feel like it's kind of like a dirt track, honestly," Gibbs said about the wet conditions. "Pick and choose your lines, see what lane is drying up and is faster. You have to look around, which makes it fun as we don't get to do that a lot."

Van Gisbergen raced to a career-altering victory last year in Chicago when he became the first driver to win his Cup Series debut since Johnny Rutherford in the second qualifying race at Daytona in 1963. The 35-year-old New Zealand native also won Saturday's Xfinity Series race on the tricky 12-turn, 2.2-mile course.

Van Gisbergen won the first stage Sunday shortly before he was knocked out.

"We were able to lead and I felt like I was driving well with it," he said, "so yeah, it's a shame to be out so early. It's a shame we couldn't have a proper crack at it at the end."

Bowman's victory finished NASCAR's second year on the street course in Chicago. It is expected to return next season, but the future of the weekend -- a combination of racing and music that is designed more for NASCAR newcomers than its traditional fans -- is unclear beyond 2025.

Unlike last year, when persistent showers wreaked havoc on the schedule -- leading to shortened versions of the Xfinity and Cup Series races -- there was no issue with the weather until the Cup drivers got into their cars and got the command to start their engines. Then the rain started to fall, and the teams had to make a quick decision on whether to switch to wet tires.

After slowing to a drizzle, the showers increased in intensity about 17 laps in, eventually leading to the stoppage.

Bowman clinches berth with win at rainy Chicago (2024)
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