Alex Bowman has finally silenced his critics after his emphatic victory on Sunday with a late race pass on Kyle Larson for his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win. After coming so close on numerous occasions this season, Bowman not only cemented his place in the Playoffs, but also reminded everyone in the sport just how talented a driver he is. This win marks the first points victory for both Hendrick Motorsports as well as Chevrolet since Chase Elliott’s win at Talladega back in April. Could this victory finally jumpstart a run of form for Chevrolet as they look to regain their competitive edge with the Camaro?
The first road course race of the season at Sonoma, the race prior to Chicagoland, was one to forget for Hendrick Motorsports and Chevy as a whole. Only one Chevy driver, Kyle Larson, finished in the top ten with a tenth place finish. Hendrick Motorsports continues to lead the Chevrolet field, however, when it comes to consistent performances, but Chip Ganassi Racing has markedly improved over recent weeks and had a strong showing at Chicagoland Speedway. Yet, just back in April Chevrolet was being labeled as NASCAR’s “Slowpoke,” and rightfully so. They had failed to win a race and the results were looking to be reminiscent of 2018.
Toyota has been far and away the best Manufacturer this season. While Ford, who is actually only 18 points behind Toyota for the MFR Standings, has won half as many races. Chevrolet sits a distant third with a 58 point gap and only two wins to its name, both by Hendrick Motorsport drivers. However, Kurt Busch, who races for Chip Ganassi Racing has the most top ten finishes of any Chevrolet driver with nine. There appears to be a lack of balance among the two Chevy heavyweights as both Chip Ganassi Racing and Hendrick Motorsports are vying for top dog.
Chevrolet and specifically Hendrick Motorsports are far from firm Championship contenders after the win in Chicagoland. After all, Chevy has not had a driver in the Championship Round since Jimmie Johnson in 2016, which saw him collect his seventh MENCS trophy. Next week, however, is a return to the super speedways with a visit to Daytona. The Coke Zero Sugar 400 naturally levels the playing field due to the restrictor plates and could be the perfect opportunity for Chevrolet to build some momentum. At some point, Chevy will need to have a back to back victory to show that the manufacturer’s drivers can compete week in and week out.
At this stage in the season, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman look to be the favorites for Chevrolet to pose a serious threat in the Playoffs. Kurt Busch has the experience that will manifest itself once the pressure picks up, but Elliott proved to be a dangerous threat in the 2018 Playoffs. What is clearly evident is the desire on the part of both Chip Ganassi Racing and Hendrick Motorsports to not sit idly as their plight for a return to dominance continues. Chevrolet was a dependable force for so long that a dip in form was most likely inevitable.
Only nine races remain until the Playoffs and Chevrolet has only had three wins since 2017 in the remaining races until the end of the regular season. Fortunately six of the top sixteen drivers, though most are mired towards the bottom, in the playoff projection standings are Chevy drivers, and as a result the Chevy teams should have a pronounced presence in come Las Vegas in September. Regardless of Chevrolet’s ability to contend at Homestead’s last Championship race, they have made improvements since last year and have seen the emergence and resurgence of drivers such as Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman to aid in the comeback for a storied manufacturer.