Alex Bowman led most of the race and finished nearly nine seconds ahead of runner-up Kyle Busch to win the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, California on Sunday.
Bowman earned his second career win and his first of the season after holding the lead for 110 of the race’s 200 laps.
Dominating Down the Stretch
The 26-year-old Bowman held the lead from Lap 167 until the end of the race, retaking control after Brad Keselowski pitted to give up first place.
“I grew up quarter-midget racing maybe 20 minutes from here in Pomona Valley,” Bowman said afterward. “It’s been a lot of fun. Thanks to [crew chief Greg Ives] and all the guys. He made great calls all day. We were up front when it counted.”
Bowman now plans to get an “88” tattoo in order to fulfill a bet he made with friend Aaron Gillespie, who plays drums for metalcore band Underoath. Bowman agreed to get matching tattoos with Gillespie if he won the race.
“We made a bet at Daytona,” Bowman told reporters. “Apparently I have to get a neck tattoo, which I’m not real sure if that’s going to happen or not. But yeah, next time we’re all together, I guess we’re all going to get tattoos.”
Bowman is in the final year of his contract with Hendrick Motorsports. While his future with his current team is still uncertain, his stock should be on the rise after an early-season win.
“I feel like if somebody doesn’t want you driving their race car, you’re not going to be driving it,” Bowman told reporters. “Hendrick Motorsports is where I want to be … it’s a contract year, but every year of my career has been a contract year.”
Bowman hasn’t clinched a playoff spot with the win – it’s still possible that more than 16 drivers win a race this season – but the victory should get him to the NASCAR Cup Series postseason. He joins Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin as early winners in the 2020 campaign.
Busch Brothers, Johnson Among Top Finishers
Kyle Busch finished second, 8.904 seconds behind Bowman. He was closely followed by his brother Kurt, who took third place. Chase Elliott and Keselowski rounded out the top five.
Jimmie Johnson also turned in a strong race, finishing in seventh.
“Our team is going in the right direction,” Johnson said afterward. “I thought I was going to blow a tire, but we salvaged a top 10 out of it. It’s a huge thing for us out here in California. There’s been great vibes the whole weekend.”
Johnson extended his winless streak to 98 races, but he currently sits in fifth place in the NASCAR Cup Series standings. William Hill regards him as a +1500 pick to win the series championship this year – the same odds as Bowman.
Kevin Harvick remains the +500 favorite to win the 2020 NASCAR championship, ahead of Kyle Busch (+550) and Martin Truex Jr. (+550).