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DAVIDSON: Bowman leads the final ten laps to win Cup race at Richmond

Richmond, VA, April 18/21 (by John Davidson): Alex Bowman overcame a pit penalty for an uncontrolled tire to take the lead from Denny Hamlin after a late-race caution to win the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. The win is Bowman's third career victory in NASCAR

A day race, 400 laps on Richmond's 3/4-mile track, usually means tight racing and has led to some close finishes in the past. Martin Truex drove away from Denny Hamlin on the start with Hamlin dropping back, then soon back into second place until the lap 30 competition caution.

Hamlin beat Truex back out onto the track thanks to a quicker stop by his crew. Hamlin picked the outside line for the restart and held on to win the first Stage. Green flag pit stops finally ended the Truex/Hamlin domination, handing the lead to Joey Logano before he pitted one lap later.

The top six cars at the yellow had not stopped; after the green flag came back out, Truex and Hamlin led once again, with Kyle Busch making gains on track. Brad Keselowski led for a few laps during a green flag pit cycle by staying out on the track. Hamlin's crew had him stopped on pit road for under twelve seconds in this cycle and the fresh tires saw him catching Keselowski by about a second a lap. The No. 2 team were trying to save a set of tires to have an extra set for late in the last Stage. Hamlin retook the lead on lap 207, with Keselowski almost forced to stay out an additional 27 laps until the end of the second Stage because he would go almost two laps down by pitting under green.

Hamlin passed Keselowski to send the No. 2 car a lap down with five laps left in the Stage, then Keselowski fell back over five positions as Hamlin went on to win his third Stage at Richmond out of the last four.

Hamlin, Truex, Logano, Bowman and Harvick held the top five spots as only 11 cars finished Stage two on the lead lap.

Lap 333 saw Joey Logano take the lead from Hamlin under green, with Hamlin reporting a wheel hop problem to his crew. Kyle Busch earned a pass-through penalty by missing the commitment box entering the pits, dropping out of the lead lap.

With 20 laps to go, Kevin Harvick spun in the first turn with a blown right rear tire, allowing Hamlin to close on Logano and giving Kyle Busch the free pass to put eight cars on the lead lap. All the leaders pitted for tires, with Hamlin beating Logano off of pit road by less than a car length. Hamlin's pit stop was timed at 11.9 seconds, while Logano's was reported as 12.2 seconds.

The green flag came back out with a dozen laps left in the race. Hamlin picked the inside row and Bowman used his position behind the leader to challenge for the lead, taking the point with ten laps to go. Bowman went on to split lapped cars approaching the checker to take his third career win after pit road penalty earlier in the race. Bowman is the eighth different race winner this season.

Bowman said, " I don't know if Greg pumped the pressures way up or what he did, but that's more grip than I've ever had in a race car at Richmond and it worked out really well," he added.

Runner-up Hamlin commented that he "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 (Alex Bowman) had a little more on those last few laps and I couldn't hold the bottom. Once he got the position, we were just shut down there.”

Hamlin added that he had needed "more grip. The 48 (Alex Bowman) just had more there on the short run. Just got us out of position. I don't know if their tires were pumped up extra, but they started fading there at the end, but they had already put a gap there."

• Click HERE for the race results


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