Last week at Darlington Raceway was, as Martin Truex Jr. put it, an ass-whooping.
Sunday’s Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway was more of the same–just by an entire organization.
Alex Bowman earned his second victory of the season, fourth of his career and first at Dover, leading the charge for Hendrick Motorsports who finished 1-2-3-4 for the first time in the history of the team.
It’s the first time the feat has been accomplished in the modern era since 2005 (Roush Fenway Racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway) and fourth time overall (Peter DePaolo Racing in 1956 and 1957). Joe Gibbs Racing placed 1-2-3-4 at Richmond in 2019, but Erik Jones’ failed post-race inspection negated a sweep of the top four positions.
“The feeling is unbelievable,” team owner Rick Hendrick said. “It was probably the longest last hundred laps that I’ve ever seen in a race just because I kind of wanted to see it so bad, so close. To be able to pull that off, that’s kind of one of those things in racing that you would say was on your bucket list. I’m extremely happy and proud of all the guys. It was a great day for the organization.”
It’s a historic day for the organization!
Hendrick Motorsports is now the fourth team in history to get a 1-2-3-4 sweep. pic.twitter.com/OGI3VTyKjn
— Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) May 16, 2021
Hendrick led all but 18 of the 400 laps Sunday, with Bowman leading the final 98 and Kyle Larson (finished second) leading a race-high 263 laps en route to his second consecutive runner-up finish.
Bowman got ahead of Larson on the final round of green flag pit stops thanks to his No. 48 pit crew pouring in the fastest pit stop of the 2021 season to date, per Racing Insights.
💭 "Pit crew: you won that race not me. Yes! HELL YES!" – Alex Bowman
— Davey Segal (@DaveyCenter) May 16, 2021
“I think straight up the No. 5 was a little bit better than us,” Bowman admitted. “But I knew that track position was key and clean air was tough today, Tougher than previous races. I felt like if I could keep the bottom closed off, it’d be pretty hard for (Larson) to get to me.”
“If we don’t beat the 5 off pit road, we probably don’t beat him in the race. I give them all the credit for the win there. I think without them we wouldn’t have gotten it done.”
— Alex Bowman (@Alex_Bowman) May 16, 2021
To be the driver who delivered on the win in the midst of Hendrick’s dominant day meant a lot to Bowman, who also said he wants to remain in the No. 48 car long term when Rick Hendrick said re-signing him to a multi-year deal was a mere “formality.”
“It’s pretty amazing,” Bowman said. “I feel like we’ve been off for a couple weeks, but we’re still the same race team that won in Richmond. We’ve been probably a little down on ourselves. Just tried to get the guys back motivated after a rough week last week in Darlington. Our pit stops were incredible today. To run 1-2-3-4 for HMS, so cool.”
Larson admitted he didn’t race Bowman any differently than he would anyone else on the final restarts, but knew he had nothing for the No. 48 and wasn’t upset nor disappointed with coming up one spot short.
“I honestly don’t know if there was anything I could have done differently to win the race after we came out second on pit road,” Larson said. “I would choose the top (lane) behind him, get to second every time. Maybe I could have chose the bottom (lane) on a restart, but I still don’t think I would have stayed with him till he was inside or anything like that. Probably would have fell back to third or so.”
Kyle Larson tells team he gave all he had, but it wasn't enough to pass Bowman: "Too equal and track position was the key."
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) May 16, 2021
“I feel like we maximized our day,” Larson added. “We were all so equal. I think any of the four of us could have been out in the lead. That person probably would have won […] I’m not disappointed or upset about this second (place finish) because I feel like there wasn’t anything else I could do.”
Chase Elliott came home third, his fifth top five this season and eighth of his career at the Monster Mile.
“Just proud of our whole team. Everybody, HMS, I feel like we have a really talented group of people that work really hard,” Elliott said. “It’s just nice to see their hard work awarded like that, in that manner, in that type of domination.”
Elliott pointed to the feat being accomplished only one other time in the modern era as a testament to Hendrick’s tireless work over the offseason and during the first couple months of the 2021 season as being key contributors to the historic day.
.@chaseelliott (P3) on Hendrick sweeping the top four positions:
💭 "Proud of our whole team […] I feel like we have a really talented group of people that work really hard. It's just really nice to see their hard work rewarded like that in that type of manner and domination." pic.twitter.com/EU7dL6IWnx
— Davey Segal (@DaveyCenter) May 16, 2021
“It’s one thing to have four fast cars,” Elliott said. “I think that happens fairly often. But have four fast cars with four really well-executed races. Yeah, it’s a cool thing. It’s very hard to do.”
William Byron rounded out the organization’s historic day, finishing fourth for his 11th straight top-10 finish, extending his series-high streak.
“For us to finish 1-2-3-4 is just a credit to a lot of great people at the shop, Chevrolet, Axalta, and all the people that support us to get us the resources; and then our teams, the crew chiefs, drivers and pit crews executing really good races,” Byron said. “For us, it’s been going for a while. … It sucks to be fourth, but I think we’re close. We just have to work on some things on our car, get the right feels, but we’re getting really close. So, we keep chipping away. We’ve had two fourth-place finishes in a row. We’ll take it and move on.”
HMS will look to build on their historic day next weekend at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, the first time NASCAR will visit the facility. The EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix will go green on Sunday, May 23 at 2:30 pm ET on FS1.