LAS VEGAS, NV — As the winding stages of Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 wound down, it was shaping up to be a two-man battle for the win at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Both Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman had chased down the leaders and would run 1-2 with 10 laps remaining.
Bowman, arguably had the strongest car over the final stint and was going to have an intense fight with Blaney for the win. That’s until Ross Chastain brought out the caution on Lap 261.
Instead of seeing what was going to be an exhilarating finish, we now had a tough pit call for each. Do you pit, or do you stay out?
We’ve seen how crazy the restarts were on the 1.5-mile track on Sunday. If they stayed out, they risked everyone else behind coming down pit road for fresh tires. If they pit, they risked everyone else behind them staying on track.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
They took the safe choice and elected for new tires. That cost them. In hindsight, they should have just stayed out because if they did, one of the two likely would have won. Instead, Blaney was credited with an 11th place finish and Bowman 13th.
“It was just a crappy situation,” said Blaney after leading 19 laps on Sunday. “We fight our butts off to get the lead there from third and get it. I had a good shot of holding the 88 off. I thought we could have once we got in clean air I thought our car was pretty decent. The caution came out and we pitted, some guys didn’t, some guys took two and we just end up getting absolutely destroyed with people not knowing how many cars were to the outside of them. It’s easy to look back on it and say we should have stayed out. That’s a tough call for Todd Gordon in his position, but I’ve got to thank him for giving me a really good car. We were great on long runs. We were so good on long runs and that’s something to hold our heads up high about, it just stinks about the finish.”
Bowman, was equally as frustrated.
“We had such a good car there at the end,” said the Hendrick Motorsports driver. “Obviously, running down the 12 (Ryan Blaney) pretty quickly. At least looking at a second-place finish, if not, battling for a win there. Our car was so good. The caution came out and we read it just a little bit wrong. Bummer that we didn’t get the finish that we probably deserved. But at the same time, I’m so proud of my guys. We had such a good race car today. We made it better all day. Obviously, we had it rolling there at the end.
“It’s unfortunate to not end up with a top-10, but I’m really proud of my guys. Having a shot at winning these things is really all you can ask for and this one just didn’t work out for us.”
Bowman, had a great race car on long runs. In practice on Friday, he was fifth and 10th respectively on single laps, but fourth and seventh on five laps, second and fourth on 10 laps runs, second on 15 laps and quickest on 20 laps.