Bowman notches fourth win of 2021
Most of us can remember things we did in 2016. It was only five years ago but my how the landscape of NASCAR has changed. It has arguably changed more for no single individual than it has for Alex Bowman. Bowman now has four wins this season behind the wheel of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48. Raise your hand if you predicted any of that in 2016. Yeah, right, you liar. Five years ago, you could’ve put $20 on that happening and, after Sunday’s race, retired, sipping cocktails somewhere warm and sunny this winter.
Despite entering the year with two career Cup wins already, Bowman has certainly broken out in 2021. He has the No. 48 team looking like, well, the No. 48 we’re all used to seeing. It was odd watching a car that amassed seven championships go four years without winning. Safe to say that it might be a long time before it goes winless for that many seasons again. Although Denny Hamlin probably wouldn’t mind after he found himself looking the wrong direction at Bowman’s car twice at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday.
Anyway, let’s hang out a few more notable numbers after this weekend’s Martinsville spin cycle.
The Cup careers of Bowman and his predecessor in the No. 48, Jimmie Johnson, couldn’t have begun much differently but there is one unique similarity. Both were 25 when they scored their first win. Although for Alex it came in his 134th Cup Series start. As for Jimmie’s first win? 13th start.
Kyle Larson‘s winless streak now stands at one race. Just thought we’d throw that in here. Laugh all you want but it’s been less than that after more than a quarter of the races in the 2021 season.
With Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. advancing to the Championship Four, it means at least half the final quartet already have a Cup title. The first year of this format, 2014, saw four drivers who were all seeking their first career title. Since then, at least two of the championship contenders in the finale have had a title already, although only one driver has ever taken part in a Championship Four with multiple titles to his name. That name would be Jimmie Johnson.
Elliott has led a lot of laps already in his young career but the 289 trips around Martinsville that he paced on Sunday are the most he’s ever led in a single event. He also won both stages, the fifth time he’s done so. Oddly enough, only one of those five has he gone on to win.
Chris Buescher finished ninth at Martinsville, his fourth top 12 in the past five events. It’s also the eighth top 10 of the year for the Roush Fenway Racing Ford, equalling the most he’s had in a single season during his Cup Series career. It’s also his first ever top-10 finish at the paperclip-shaped short track.
The 15 yellow flags that flew on Sunday brought the total number of cautions during Cup races at Martinsville this year to 30. It’s the most since there were 33 yellows in the two 2015 races and just the second time the threshold of 30 has been reached in the last 14 years.
The top-five finishers led a total of 18 laps between them, the fewest such number all time for a Cup Series event at Martinsville Speedway. Winner Bowman led nine, including the last eight straight and fourth-place Truex Jr also held the point three times for nine laps during the middle portion of the race.
Lucky number 13? Perhaps. Bowman started 13th and became just the third Cup driver ever to win from the inside of row seven at the Virginia half mile. Harry Gant won in 1985 after taking the green flag in 13th and there was no bad luck for Dale Jarrett when he claimed the 2001 spring race at Martinsville after beginning in 13th.
About the author
Frank Velat has been an avid follower of NASCAR and other motorsports for over 20 years. He brings a blend of passionate fan and objective author to his work. Frank offers unique perspectives that everyone can relate to, remembering the sport's past all the while embracing its future. Follow along with @FrankVelat on Twitter.