2024 NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 165 – Alex Bowman Handles Rain, Snaps Winless Streak


CHICAGO – Lightning might not strike twice, but rain certainly does.

The second edition of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 165 Chicago Street Race was hampered – and shortened – by rain once again.

Unlike last year, though, when the rain started in the morning and never went away, this day dawned sunny. The weather was picture perfect until the early afternoon.

The skies clouded over and the occasional raindrop fell during the pre-race ceremonies, but it still seemed like the rain would stay away. Until it didn’t.

It ended up being picture perfect for Alex Bowman, who got his first win in his last 80 tries. He hadn’t been the first one across the start/finish line since March 2022 at Las Vegas.

NASCAR officials must’ve cursed their luck as the heavens opened right as the parade laps were getting underway. It’s not just because of what happened in Chicago last year, but NASCAR has now had rain delays in four straight races going back to Iowa. Not to mention the rains that put a damper on the league’s All-Star race and shortened one of its signature events, the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte.

It’s not just NASCAR – this summer has been a bit soggy. The 2024 Indianapolis 500 was delayed by rain, and that delay plus the weather in Charlotte prevented NASCAR star Kyle Larson from driving in both races in the same day.

NASCAR get the race rolling after a short delay to let teams choose weather to run slicks or rain tires, but shortly before the end of Stage 1, the rain picked up. NASCAR gamely tried to continue the proceedings after the stage break, but Mother Nature wasn’t in a cooperative mood.

Last year’s winner, Shane van Gisbergen, once again seemed ready for the rain. The New Zealander made his pre-NASCAR living on street courses, and after he took home the trophy in Saturday’s Loop 110 Xfinity Series race, he snagged the Stage 1 win Sunday. He was competitive until Chase Briscoe lost control of his car in the wet conditions and slid into the back of van Gisbergen, punting him into the wall.

Van Gisbergen was in the top five at the time and had lead nine laps during the race. The incident occurred on Lap 26 – which is the same lap the field was on when the rain forced a red flag.

“I just sort of turned in; it looked pretty good and then just got smacked by someone,” van Gisbergen said when interviewed during the TV broadcast. “It’s gutting. The No. 16 Wendy’s Saucy Nuggs Camaro was really good. We were in the lead for a lot of that race. I felt good taking off in the rain, so that sucks. It’s an unfortunate mistake by him. I’m sure he didn’t mean it. But yeah, when he just clipped me, there wasn’t anything I could do.”

That seemed to give Larson, who had a strong run Saturday, an opening – Larson was racing Ty Gibbs for second place on lap 34 when he clipped Gibbs and slid into the tire barrier in Turn 6 – a corner that has been problematic in the wet both years.

Another driver who had an opportunity to win was Tyler Reddick. Reddick was trying to hunt down Bowman but he clipped a wall late and that mistake slowed him down too much – though he still managed to finished second.

With the red flag delaying the race for an hour and 43 minutes, NASCAR officials needed to once again shorten the race on account of darkness. The word filtered down that once the clock struck 8:20 PM Central, there would be two laps to determine the winner.

Bowman’s crew chief Blake Harris said the cautions played perfectly into their tire-choice strategy. Bowman’s victory means that all four Rick Hendrick Motorsports teams have qualified for the playoffs. Bowman is the 12th driver to win a race this season.

“It’s about overcoming everything that’s happened in my life the last two years,” Bowman said. He’d suffered a concussion and a broken back – incurred during a sprint-car race – during that time. “I’m just a dude trying to do my job the best I possibly can, right?”

The reward for doing that is bourbon – Bowman said that NASCAR had already gifted him a bottle. Not only that, but he’d saved a couple of bottles from his previous win precisely for this occasion. An occasion, he said, that took “too f—ing long”.

Next up for NASCAR is a trip to the Poconos. Maybe, finally, the drivers will be able to race in the dry.

[Images © 2024 Tim Healey/TTAC.com]

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