By Tyler Head

Alex Bowman picked up his seventh career NASCAR Cup Series victory by winning the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday. Bowman has had a less than stellar start to the season with finishes of 24th and 25th respectively, but he now finds himself locked into the playoffs and ready to challenge for more wins.

Hacking Away

Bowman has a way of being in the right place late in races to capitalize and snag a win on a day where maybe he doesn’t have a dominant car. Bowman was plenty fast on the day leading three times for 16 laps and securing a stage win, but he didn’t seem to have the same speed as guys like Ross Chastain or Kyle Busch. When the final caution flew setting up overtime, Bowman’s crew chief Greg Ives gambled with two tires on the pit stop while seemingly everyone else took four. All he had to do was hold them all at bay  for two laps and claim the win. Despite teammate Kyle Larson’s spirited challenge the final three miles, Bowman held serve to win.

On the Right Track

Team Trackhouse has wasted no time making a statement that they’re going to be a contender in 2022. Daniel Suarez battled Kyle Larson for the lead in the final laps last week at Auto Club and this week Ross Chastain showed out. The 1 car led 77 laps and picked up a stage win before finishing 3rd. Team Trackhouse is the real deal and don’t be surprised if both drivers find themselves in victory lane multiple times this season.

Bouncing Back

Kyle Busch’s weekend didn’t start off so well when he backed his Camry into the fence in Saturday’s practice session. The damage was too severe to salvage the primary and therefore his crew was tasked with taking a barebones backup car (really just a body and tires) and getting it race ready. After working an estimated eight hours on that task, the backup 18 car was ready to go with almost all of its parts and pieces coming from the now wrecked primary car. It would’ve been understandable had Busch turned in a lackluster performance on Sunday, but the Vegas native had other plans. Despite starting in the rear, suffering issues with his shifter, and spinning on lap 44, Busch managed to earn points in both stages and seemed to have the car to beat as he lead in the closing laps. He was doing a masterful job holding off teammate Martin Truex Jr. as the race neared the end, but a late caution would force overtime and he would have to settle for 4th instead. Regardless, still a day for his JGR team to be proud of.

Passing the Test

I talk about it every week, but the NextGen delivered once again while racing on its fourth straight different track. 1.5 mile tracks have become the bane of many NASCAR fan’s existence over the past couple of years where Cup cars were running wide open and unable to pass 10 laps into a green flag run. Sunday’s action reminded us that these types of races can be great should they have the right ingredients. The NextGen’s 670 horsepower package provided plenty of speed (195 at times into turn 1), passing opportunities where the trailing car wasn’t nerfed by the lead car’s dirty air, and of course lots of loose race cars as the drivers were forced to wrestle them every single lap. 

No Dice

Ryan Blaney could make a strong case the he could be leaving Las Vegas with three straight wins to start the 2022 season. He was just feet away from getting past teammate Austin Cindric at the Daytona 500, he showed great speed at Auto Club only to repeatedly lose spots on pit road which killed his chances, and finally today he led 10 laps early and showed the speed capable of winning. Alas, it wasn’t to be as he would hit former teammate Brad  Keselowski  mid-spin which ended his day. Don’t worry YRB, the wins are coming.