Bowman Ruins Hamlin’s Day; Championship Four Set For Phoenix

Martinsville gave us all we could want in a cut off race and more. The two drivers that led the most laps are moving on, but they didn’t win. A non-championship driver and three time race winner, not a hack, stayed competitive and saw a chance to win at the end and went for it. Lap after lap Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin raced hard side by side before Bowman got lose after driving his car in too deep and sent Hamlin spinning.

The crowd roared their approval and the boos started to rain down as Hamlin chased down Bowman and parked his car right in front of Bowman, preventing him from moving. Bowman spun around and Hamlin went nose to nose and started to push Bowman backwards!

What the what?!?!

Fortunately for Hamlin, a crew member reminded him “be smart, big picture here” and he stormed off leaving Bowman to a cheering crowd.

Kyle Larson (transfers with two wins in this round) and Chase Elliott (in by points during the race) were probably the only two drivers who didn’t mind seeing a teammate and knocked out driver win. That win definitely changed the complexion of the Phoenix race. It’s quite possible that had Bowman not been there, Brad Keselowski might have had a chance at Hamlin for the win. The cut off was literally a point or two for most of the final segment of the race. Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Busch and Keselowski were battling for that final transfer position and MTJ got it by finishing fourth.

Kyle Busch finished second but had issues all race long with drive off the corner. His radio communications showed a very frustrated driver who knew his chances to transfer were tight. It also goes to show just how good of a driver he is by putting a Top 15 car into the Top 5. MTJ took a damaged car that many other teams may have pulled to pit road for tires to seal fourth place, guaranteeing himself a shot at the title. It was a pretty gutsy call by his crew chief to stay out. He knew that if they pitted they were out of it.

Brad Keselowski fought hard in his next to last race for Penske and ran third. Normally a decent day except when you have to win. Kyle Busch didn’t like the way Brad was driving but Brad only has to answer to Roger Penske and the 2 team, not Kyle Busch. Kyle is angry that he didn’t win and it was easy to blame Keselowski, but Busch lost a shot at the title the week before at Kansas.

I am still stoked about the end of the race. There was hard racing all through the field and the last 30 laps were crazy – and that is what NASCAR fans are supposedly all for.

Next!!! Phoenix

This is going to be another crazy race and it is possible a driver other than the Championship Four could win. You think Kyle Busch wouldn’t want to rain on everyone’s parade and jam a win down their throats? As long as MTJ finishes second and wins the title, Rowdy would like nothing better.

MTJ won the spring race with Hamlin third, Chase Elliott fifth and Kyle Larson seventh. This was a race dominated Joey Logano who led 143 laps and finished second. Larson led only one lap, Elliott none. But Team Hendrick has shown a lot more speed as the season has progressed. This race will be one that I find too hard to call. You can make a strong case for any of the four to win it all.

Based on how they have been running, MTJ would be the longshot of the four. While he has the tenacity, he hasn’t had the car every race. Denny Hamlin is fired up and led 33 laps in the spring race. He could easily win his first title. But he has to get past Team Hendrick to do that. Kyle Larson isn’t the same driver he was in March. He has been on a tear and if they can keep up with the track, he could win. Chase Elliott is solid and has speed but he hasn’t been the closer. He’ll have to step up his game here if he is to outrun the other three.

No mistakes. None. Stay out of trouble. Keep your head in the game and you could be holding the trophy at the end of the day.

Good on ya, mate

  • William Byron (P5) keeps at it race after race. That kid is one hard driver and not just a pretty face.
  • Aric Almirola (P6) finally had something new to cheer about.
  • Erik Jones (P8) and Chris Buescher (P9) managed to get up front and stay there will the end.

So you had a bad day

  • Ryan Newman (P32) still doesn’t have a 2021 ride and this kind of day isn’t a good advertisement.
  • Bubba Wallace (P25) did a little paint trading and ended up back in the pack.
  • Denny Hamlin (P24) went from the lead to way back. But he still transferred.
  • Chase Elliott (P16) led 289 laps. All well and good but you have to close the deal.
  • Ryan Blaney (P11) was probably lucky to finish 11th but his car was not up to the challenge. They missed it by a mile.

Turn left and keep the shiny side up…. and be sure to leave your thoughts and comments below!

More of my columns can be found by clicking here.

(Featured Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/NASCAR Media)

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