Alex Bowman prevailed following a late duel with Kyle Larson to take his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win in a rain-delayed Camping World 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway.

Bowman rose to the fore in the race’s final stage and reclaimed the lead from Larson with six laps to go to score his first career win in his 134th start.

Lighting in the area brought the race to a halt on Lap 10 before a massive rainstorm drenched the 1.5-mile oval located outside of Chicago. The race was delayed a total of 3 hours and eighteen minutes.

The racing action resumed with Denny Hamlin taking the win in Stage 1 after a late spin by Clint Bowyer ended the racing one lap early.

Kevin Harvick conquered stage 2 by holding off a late charge from the Hendrick Motorsports teammates of Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott.

Harvick retained the lead with a quick pitstop during the stage break ahead of Larson, Bowman and Johnson.

Hamlin was dropped to the rear of the field for too many crew members over the wall. Larson blasted past Harvick on the restart while Bowman slotted into third place.

He maintained a steady lead over the lead group while Kyle Busch cut a tyre after contact with Joey Logano and forced him to pit on Lap 169.

Bowman then powered past Harvick and Larson  to the lead on Lap 171. Harvick’s race soon fell apart when he smacked the wall on Lap 172, bringing out the sixth and final caution.

The yellow set the stage for the final run to the checkers with Bowman leading the way on the Lap 177 restart.

Bowman jetted away from Larson and stretched out to a massive three-second lead as the race reached the Lap 200 mark with final pitstops around the corner.

The final round of pitstops began on Lap 217 when the Fords of Ryan Newman and Joey Logano took to pit road. Larson was the first of the lead group to pit a lap later and Bowman followed suit on Lap 220.

Bowman re-emerged as the leader on Lap 226 with two seconds in the bank over Larson, who was perused by Joey Logano while Johnson and Brad Keselowski ran in fifth place.

Meanwhile further in the pack, Kyle Busch’s mediocre day turned to bad as his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry started smoking and he was forced to pit on Lap 243.

Bowman’s nearly flawless performance nearly came undone when he encountered lapped traffic with 20 laps to go. A five-lap battle with the lapped car of Paul Menard allowed Kyle Larson to quickly erase his comfortable three-second lead to a blighted one second lead with just ten laps to go.

Larson overhauled Bowman with eight to go with a low line pass entering Turn 1. That didn't stifle the hopes of Bowman who muscled back to the lead three laps later and cruised to the win.

His maiden victory follows three consecutive second-place finishes this year at Talladega, Kansas and Dover. The 26-year-old from Tuscon, Arizona felt as if a weight was lifted off his shoulders after coming so close but so far.

“I’m just tired of running second,” he said. “I don’t want to do that anymore. So, I feel like this is the last box, aside from chasing the championship, I needed it personally for myself, to validate my career. I feel like obviously there’s a lot more left to accomplish but this is always what I hear is ‘you haven’t won a race’.”

Larson’s runner up finish stands as his best result of the year as he is chasing a winless drought dating back to Richmond in 2017. Logano ended up third ahead of Jimmie Johnson, who also came home with his best run of the season to date.

Team Penske Fords occupied the next two spots with Brad Keselowski rounding out the top five and Ryan Blaney ending up sixth. Erik Jones was the highest Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry in seventh ahead of William Byron in eighth and Martin Truex, Jr in ninth ahead of pole-sitter Austin Dillon rounding out the top ten.

Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, winners of the opening two stages, never recovered from their earlier issues and finished 16th and 17th respectively.

Kyle Busch’s tyre issues also left him deep in the pack in 22nd, which stands as one of only two finishes outside the top ten for the series’ points leader.

 

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