RICHMOND, Va. — Another week, another agonizing loss for Denny Hamlin.
And this time it was to Alex Bowman, who came from nowhere with 10 laps to go at Richmond Raceway to put the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet in victory lane for the first time in nearly four years.
Bowman earned the third victory of his NASCAR Cup Series career on Sunday — and denied Hamlin a win in a race he had dominated — to become the eighth unique winner in nine NASCAR Cup Series races this season. He dedicated the victory to crew member William "Rowdy" Harrell and his wife, Blakley, who were killed in a November car crash in Florida while on their honeymoon.
"This one is for Rowdy and his family. Miss him and Blakley every day," said Bowman, who overcame a penalty on lap 247 for a loose tire on pit road to rally for the win.
The 27-year-old's victory in the No. 48 came on the same day the former driver of the car, seven-time season champion Jimmie Johnson, made his debut in the IndyCar Series in another No. 48 car for Chip Ganassi Racing. It was the first victory for the Cup Series No. 48 since June 4, 2017.
Johnson had been the only driver of the No. 48 from the time it debuted in 2001 until his retirement last year, and Bowman was picked by sponsor Ally to replace him.
Hamlin's hard luck continued for a third straight race.
On the temporary dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway, he didn't do enough to move Joey Logano out of his way to earn the win, and then at Martinsville Speedway he was caught late by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr.
In Richmond, Hamlin raced with the hashtag #fedexstrong on the back of his car and on his pit wall to honor the eight people who were fatally shot at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis on Thursday. He again had the dominant car and led 207 of the 400 laps. He has led 483 laps the past two races.
"First and foremost, we want to think of all of the families in Indy right now," Hamlin said. "Awful tragedy to happen there. Our thoughts and prayers are with these names. We will get (wins). We will keep digging. We are dominating — just have to finish it."
Hamlin won the first two stages and notched his eighth top-five finish this season.
"We just didn't take off quite as good there at the end. I tried to warm it up and do everything that I could — just the 48 had a little more on those last few laps and I couldn't hold the bottom," Hamlin said.
Hamlin, who led 276 laps at Martinsville Speedway but lost the lead to Truex with 15 laps to go, did hang on Sunday to finish second, followed by Logano, Christopher Bell and Truex, who led 107 laps and overcame a penalty for speeding on pit road. Kyle Busch finished eighth, the second week in a row all four JGR drivers finished in the top 10.
After three straight races on short tracks, the series heads to the longest track on the circuit: 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.
IndyCar is underway
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Fernando Alonso is winless so far this season in Formula One. Same with Carlos Sainz.
Over in IndyCar, though, Alex Palou scored a victory for Spain.
Palou picked up his first career win — in his first race with Chip Ganassi Racing — by holding off a pair of series champions in the season-opening race at Barber Motorsports Park. The affable 24-year-old raised his fists in the air when he realized he'd reached victory lane before his fellow countrymen, who both raced 5,000 miles away in Italy earlier in the day.
Palou is only the second Spaniard to win in the IndyCar Series, joining Oriol Servia, who won in 2005 at Montreal.
"It's just amazing, but I think it was part of the job," he said. "When you are part of a big team and a successful team like Chip Ganassi, they give you all the tools. You have everything you need to win, and that's why you see so many successful drivers."
Palou used a two-stop strategy on the picturesque permanent road course to take control but still had to hold off hard-charging Will Power and Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon over the closing laps. He beat Power to the finish line by .4016 second.
Dixon, the six-time and reigning IndyCar champion, finished third and was followed by Pato O'Ward, who started in pole position and was on a three-stop strategy.
Palou was the quieter offseason signing of the Ganassi organization, which also added seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson to its four-car lineup.
Ganassi finished with three drivers in the top 10 as Marcus Ericsson took eighth.
Johnson, who at 45 is older than Palou's father, is learning every session and taking small gains. He celebrated not qualifying last Saturday and was satisfied with his 19th-place finish Sunday.
IndyCar races next Sunday on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, which is typically the season opener. It was the finale last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
F1: It's Verstappen
IMOLA, Italy — Max Verstappen eased to victory in an otherwise wild Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, comfortably beating seven-time F1 season champion Lewis Hamilton, who almost crashed out after a rare error.
Hamilton hit a wall in a race that was also temporarily suspended after a separate incident involving Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
The 23-year-old Verstappen led for the majority of the race on the wet Imola track, and the Red Bull driver from the Netherlands beat Hamilton to the finish line by 22 seconds for the 11th win of his F1 career. Lando Norris finished third, 23.7 seconds behind Verstappen.
Verstappen almost threw the victory away as he nearly lost control of his car during the restart after the red flag, but he recovered and gradually pulled away from the field.
"I had my moment in the restart. That was a big one! But after that it was fine," Verstappen said with a laugh. "It's a very long season, so just have to keep on working very hard. I'm very happy about the result today, but tomorrow we start again. ... It's great to be fighting against Lewis and Mercedes, who have been very dominant for so many years."
Hamilton, who won the season-opening Bahrain GP last month to start his bid for a fifth straight championship, showed all his skills to make his way back up the field after falling as far back as ninth after the collision just before the halfway point of the race.
The 36-year-old British driver, who started in pole position Sunday, is still ahead of Verstappen in the standings after he picked up a bonus point for the fastest lap in Imola. Bottas had the fastest lap in Bahrain.
Next up on the 23-race schedule is the Portuguese GP on May 2.