Bowman Wrecks Way To Martinsville Win

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 31 2021

Alex Bowman, No. 48, sent Denny Hamlin into the wall and went on to win at Martinsville. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Alex Bowman did his best to keep Denny Hamlin from shedding his image of being the best current driver to not have won a championship. But it wasn’t enough.

Bowman, who was eliminated from title contention on Oct. 10 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, won Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.

He captured the win when he whacked Hamlin out of the lead with six laps to go.

“I just got loose,” Bowman, who has four wins this year and six on his career, said. “I got in too deep, knocked him out of the way and literally let him have the lead back. So, for anybody that wants to think that I was trying to crash him, it obviously wasn’t the case considering I literally gave up the lead here at Martinsville to give it back to him.

“He’s been on the other side of that. He’s crashed guys here for wins. I hate doing it. I just go loose under him and spun him out.”

Hamlin finished 24th and in doing so still grabbed a berth in the championship-deciding race at Phoenix next weekend based on points. Not that it soothed his anger at Bowman.

After the end of the race, Hamlin tracked Bowman down on the cool-down laps and rammed the Hendrick Motorsports driver’s Chevrolet.

“He’s just a hack. An absolute hack,” Hamlin said. “He gets his (butt) kicked by his teammates every week. He’s terrible. Just terrible. He sees one opportunity and takes it.

“We had a good clean race. I moved up to give him as much room as I could l the race track to give him all room I could and he still can’t drive.

Also advancing to Championship 4 Sunday were Martin Truex, Jr., Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson, who locked up his Championship 4 berth by winning two of the first three races in the Round of 8.

Falling out of contention were Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney of Team Penske, and Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing.

Busch finished second in the race, Keselowski was third, Truex fourth and William Byron fifth.

Elliott locked himself into the final four before the end of the race. When he won the second stage, he piled up enough points to secure his berth.

Good thing, too, because with 45 laps to go, Elliott was spun by Keselowski as they battled for third place.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver, who led a race-best 289 laps Sunday, will be attempting to win his second straight Cup championship in Phoenix next weekend.

He’s in the final four, “and that’s all that matters,” Elliott said. “Wish we could have won it. I hate to be so fast all day and then it not work out. Obviously next week is what matters.

Hamlin was forced to start the race from the rear of the field after his car failed pre-race inspection multiple times. Hamlin’s problems compounded during pit stops for the competition caution that was called on Lap 60 as he was slapped with a speeding penalty. But back he came to lead laps and almost get the win.

Truex had to fight his way through with damage to his left front fender suffered with 50 laps to go when he ran into the back of Keselowski.

After wrecking at Kansas a week ago, Blaney started Martinsville a point below the cutline and in need of a good day. His day started badly with a slow race car and got worse when he was rammed from behind by Austin Dillon on Lap 92 while running eighth. The contact seriously flared Blaney’s left rear fender and further slowed his Team Penske Ford.

Kyle Busch’s hopes to win a third championship appeared to have succumbed to having a slow car most of the race and then being penalized for speeding between the second and third stages. Second place was enough for him.

“We swung anything and everything at this thing (car) today and just couldn’t make it come alive,” Busch said.

“We just missed last week,” Busch, who came up three points short, said of the race at Kansas. “That’s where we lost all the ground. Could have come in here with 15 more points and we would have been fine on the cut.”

Logano started the day 26 points below the cutoff line and pretty much needed to win to advance. Instead, the 2018 Cup champion struggled, was never in contention and was bumped from the playoffs with a 10th-place finish.

Larson appeared to be in prime position to sweep the Round of 8’s three events as he led 77 laps in the first stage. But during the pit stops between stages he was tagged with a speeding penalty and dropped out of the top 20. He fought his way back up to near the front of the field but with 120 laps to go received a second speeding penalty. He finished 14th.

“Just a really bad executing on my part,” Larson said. “I was just way too aggressive on pit road.”


| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 31 2021
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