ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
AP photo by John Locher / Alex Bowman celebrates after winning Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

LAS VEGAS — The racing rule is quite clear at Hendrick Motorsports, where the boss will let his drivers go door to door so long as they don't tear up his cars.

After two of his stars tangled last week at Auto Club Speedway in California, Hendrick gave his team a rules refresher.

Message delivered.

Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson went wheel to wheel Sunday in a two-lap overtime shootout at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The racing was clean from the restart to the checkered flag and Bowman beat the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion for his first win of the season.

The win made it two straight for Hendrick through three races this season. The all-time wins leader among NASCAR team owners now has 281 victories.

Bowman took pride in scoring a seventh career victory with a clean 1-2 finish for Hendrick after the meeting with the boss.

"The talk was a big wakeup call," Bowman said. "When Mr. H calls a meeting like that, it gets your attention."

Hendrick called the meeting after Larson and 2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott collided racing for the lead at California. Larson said he didn't see Elliott when he squeezed him into the wall and apologized. Elliott was furious, and Hendrick put the matter to rest.

Just a week later, though, the Hendrick cars again had to race one another for the win and make sure to do it without any bumping or banging. The Hendrick chance came when a spin by Erik Jones with three laps remaining brought out the 12th caution of the race and shifted the fight from a pair of Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas to the Hendrick Chevrolets.

Las Vegas native Kyle Busch and JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr. had been in a lap-by-lap chess match for the win until Jones' crash. Busch thought he'd inched ahead of Truex and had the win locked up until the caution.

"I don't know what it was," Busch said. "But anyways, wasn't meant to be. Not our day. See you next week."

some text
AP photo by John Locher / Alex Bowman does a celebratory burnout after winning Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The Hendrick trio of Bowman, Larson and William Byron all changed just two tires to get off pit road first through third. Busch, who had gone to the pits as the leader, took four tires and came off pit road in fourth.

Larson, the winner of this Las Vegas race last year and the winner last week in California, chose the outside line for the restart with Bowman on his inside. The two were in a drag race over the final two laps, and Bowman only got significant as he closed in on the checkered flag.

Bowman, who led three times for 16 laps, beat Larson to the finish line by 0.178 second.

"Kyle and I historically have always raced each other really clean, and this was no different," Bowman said.

Ross Chastain finished third for TrackHouse Racing and a podium sweep for Chevy. Chastain, who had led just 75 laps combined in 117 previous starts, was out front for a race-high 83 laps.

Busch finished fourth in a backup car after crashing in Saturday morning practice when his tire went flat. The wreck destroyed his ride, and because backups are in short supply at the start of NASCAR's rollout of the Next Gen model, the only option JGR had was a parts car not meant for competition.

"True testament to everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing," Busch said after the crews from all four JGR teams helped prepare his car. "Everybody had a hand in being able to make us go."

Byron was fifth to give Hendrick three drivers in the top five, and Stewart-Haas Racing's Aric Almirola was sixth in the highest-finishing Ford. Almirola is the only driver to finish inside the top 10 in each of the first three races this season.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT