Larson’s blown tire on final lap opens way for Bowman

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 27, 2021

By Dan Gelston

AP Sports Writer

LONG POND, Pa. — Alex Bowman helplessly watched teammate Kyle Larson zip past him in the waning laps at Pocono and apologized to his crew over the radio for blowing the lead.

Larson’s blown tire cost him so much more. Larson’s left front tire went down when his Chevrolet ran over debris less than a mile from the finish — and a fourth straight win in sight — that stunningly slammed NASCAR’s hottest driver into the wall.

Ah, so a flat tire is how you beat Kyle Larson.

Bowman had a second chance in a flash and this time would not waste the lead. This is how the last two months have rolled for Hendrick Motorsports — when one driver falters, another one finds a way to victory lane.

Bowman made it six straight wins for Hendrick, and the shredded tire denied Larson’s bid for a fourth straight Cup victory Saturday at Pocono Raceway. Bowman was in stunned disbelief as he crossed the line for his third win of the season.

“This is the strangest win I’ve ever been a part of,” Bowman said.

Larson laughed at his misfortune. He won three straight Cup races and was in prime position for another at Pocono when he passed Bowman with three laps left in the race. Larson was maybe a mile away from becoming the first driver since former Hendrick champion Jimmie Johnson in 2007 to win four consecutive Cup races. Instead, the tire went down on the last corner of the last lap and knocked Larson out of contention.

Bowman went from tough-luck loser to unlikely-winner on the 2 1/2-mile tri-oval.

Larson said he might have run over debris to cause the tire issue. Bowman was in the right spot to take advantage — from apology to victory — and won for the third time in his last 10 races. He won at Dover and Richmond.

“We got pretty lucky there with Kyle’s misfortune,” Bowman said.

For team owner Rick Hendrick, the wins keep coming.

Bowman started the win streak in May at Dover and Chase Elliott followed the next week at Texas. Larson then ripped off three straight points victories at Charlotte, Sonoma and last week at Nashville — and squeezed in the $1 million All-Star race for four wins, total — all while Hendrick Motorsports became the winningest organization in NASCAR history.

The Xfinity Series today will be followed by the second Cup race. Pocono the site of the only NASCAR doubleheader this season with Saturday’s race run at 325 miles and today’s set for 350 miles.