Alex Bowman Wins in the Rain at NASCAR Chicago Street Race

Hendrick Motorsports' Alex Bowman locks himself into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with a win on the wet streets of Chicago

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Grant Park, Chicago, IL — July 7, 2024

For the second consecutive year, the speed of NASCAR is coming back to the streets of downtown Chicago against the backdrop of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline for the Grant Park 165.

Chicago Street Race / NASCAR Photo

Lake Shore Drive, Michigan Avenue, Columbus Drive, and select surrounding thoroughfares have been transformed into a 12-turn, 2.20-mile street course, with the start/finish line and pit road located along South Columbus Drive directly in front of Buckingham Fountain. The course passes through the famed Grant Park, as well as approaching the northern edge of Soldier Field, one of the most notable and recognizable sports venues in the country – and the site of a 1956 Cup Series race.

This season marks the second of a minimum three-year commitment between NASCAR and the City of Chicago. NASCAR returns to the Second City for the second-ever Street Race in Cup Series history. The Chicago Street Race Weekend is a unique two-day sports and entertainment event with a festival-like atmosphere that exemplifies NASCAR’s characteristic fan experience that puts attendees closer to the action than any other sport.

NASCAR is no stranger to the state of Illinois, the first NASCAR national series race held in the state was a NASCAR Cup Series event at Santa Fe Speedway in Willow Springs. The event was held on July 10, 1954 and it was won by driver Dick Rathman driving a Hudson for car owner John Ditz. Finishing runner-up in the race was NASCAR Hall of Famer Hershel McGriff also driving a Hudson. Once again, NASCAR returns to Illinois for this weekend’s Grant Park 165 at the Chicago Street Course – just the second ever NASCAR race run on a street course.

Shane Van Gisbergen is Back

New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen (SVG) is back in the NASCAR Cup Series this weekend at the Chicago Street Course to defend his win from last season. But this time with a new team, the Kaulig Racing.

Last year, as part of the Trackhouse Racing Project 91 program, Shane van Gisbergen and several other drivers from high-level racing disciplines were given opportunities to compete in the NASCAR Cup Series at select events. Van Gisbergen just so happened to be the most successful of the group, winning in his first appearance in the NASCAR Cup Series at inaugural Chicago Street Race.

Van Gisbergen became the sixth different driver not from the United States to win a NASCAR Cup Series race with his Chicago victory, joining Mario Andretti (Italy), Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia), Earl Ross (Canada), Marcos Ambrose (Australia) and Daniel Suarez (Mexico).

Race to the Playoffs

Team Penske’s Joey Logano has become the 11th different driver to win this season and earn himself a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. With 11 spots in the 16-driver Playoff field already spoken for, and only seven races left until the postseason, time and space are running out for competitors to earn their postseason position.

Playoff Bound:

Last weekend, two-time series champion Joey Logano took the checkered flag following five overtimes in a performance of preservation at Nashville Superspeedway.

The 11 drivers this season currently holding a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs by virtue of their regular season wins are Kyle Larson (three wins), Denny Hamlin (three), Christopher Bell (three), William Byron (three), Chase Elliott (one), Tyler Reddick (one), Ryan Blaney (one), Brad Keselowski (one), Daniel Suarez (one), Austin Cindric (one) and Joey Logano (one).

In the Hot Seats:

The five drivers currently in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff transfer spots on points are Martin Truex Jr. (+143 points up on postseason cutoff), Ty Gibbs (+70), Ross Chastain (+66), Chris Buescher (+56) and Alex Bowman (+51).

Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman is currently in the most precarious position (16th) of the five drivers inside the Playoff cutoff heading into Chicago this weekend. Though he holds a stout 51 point edge over 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace in 17th, if a driver below Bowman in the standings wins over the next seven races, he could find himself bounced out of the Playoffs.

Outside Looking In:

There are currently 18 drivers still eligible to make the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs that are without a win and below the postseason cut line in points following Nashville.

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace (-51 points), is one of seven drivers currently below the Playoff cutline that has made the Cup Series Playoffs previously, along with Chase Briscoe (-78 points), two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch (-104 points), Michael McDowell (-166), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (-194), Erik Jones (-217) and Austin Dillon (-261).

2024 Driver Playoff Outlook Following Race No. 19 – Drivers Without Wins This Season
Rank Driver Points Wins Stages Playoff Pts Pts From Cutoff
12 Martin Truex Jr. 591 0 2 2 143
13 Ty Gibbs 518 0 2 2 70
14 Ross Chastain 514 0 1 1 66
15 Chris Buescher 504 0 2 2 56
16 Alex Bowman 499 0 0 0 51
17 Bubba Wallace 448 0 0 0 -51
18 Chase Briscoe 421 0 0 0 -78
19 Kyle Busch 395 0 0 0 -104
20 Josh Berry # 368 0 0 0 -131
21 Todd Gilliland 367 0 0 0 -132
22 Michael McDowell 333 0 1 1 -166
23 Noah Gragson 325 0 0 0 -174
24 Carson Hocevar # 318 0 0 0 -181
25 Ryan Preece 308 0 0 0 -191

 

Today’s Race

Though this weekend’s race is technically on a ‘street course’ and not a ‘road course’ a similar approach to being successful this Sunday will apply. Here is a list of the active road and street course NASCAR winners entered this weekend.

Active Road/Street Course Winners (15) Wins WGI Sonoma Charlotte COTA Indy Daytona Road Am. Chicago
Chase Elliott 7 2 0 2 1 0 1 1 0
Martin Truex Jr 5 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Busch 4 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Larson 5 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0
AJ Allmendinger 3 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0
Tyler Reddick 3 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0
Christopher Bell 2 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0
William Byron 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Daniel Suárez 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Denny Hamlin 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Joey Logano 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Blaney 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Ross Chastain 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Michael McDowell 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Shane van Gisbergen 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Totals 38 11 8 6 3 3 2 2 1

The NASCAR Cup Series has competed on two road courses this season so far, with Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron winning at Austin (COTA) and Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson winning at Sonoma Raceway.

Following the Chicago Street Course, the NASCAR Cup Series has just two more road courses on the schedule this season – Watkins Glen International (9/15/24) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL (10/13/24).

Kyle Larson is on the pole for today’s race, Ty Gibbs lines up beside him on the front row. In row two Michael McDowell and Tyler Reddick. Shane Van Gisbergen starts in the fifth position.

The Chicago Street Course is 2.20 miles in length, to complete the 165 mile distance will require 75 laps around the layout. Stages are set for 20/25/30 laps.

Stage One

A light rain began to fall as drivers were climbing into their cars. Nothing like the downpour that delayed last year’s event. Wet weather tires are on hand for today’s race and the cars are equipped with a windshield wiper.

The shower was brief, but radar shows a line of storms skirting the city to the north. Teams were given the option of choosing slicks vs treaded tires for the start. A test lap prior to making the decision was allowed by NASCAR.

The challenge for drivers is, unlike a road course there is no run-off area if you get the car out of shape. The Chicago Street course is bordered by walls on both sides of the track.

Despite puddles on some streets and sprinkles appearing on the windshield over portions of the circuit, most teams opted to start on slicks.

While NASCAR mandated the use of wet weather tires on the oval at New Hampshire, here teams are allowed to make their tire own decisions.

Green Flag

Ty Gibbs(54) jumped out front at the drop of the green flag, Tyler Reddick(45) followed him past Kyle Larson(5). Two laps in, SVG(16) nudged his way around Larson for third.

In the opening laps some drivers were tip-toeing their way around the course. The pavement appeared to be drying with the exception of turn 11, the northern most section of the track, where rain was falling.

Michael McDowell(34) was the first of the leaders to pit for wet weather tires. He forfeited the eighth position to make the change.

SVG moved to second as Reddick began to fade back in the top ten.

Just 12 laps into the race the leaders caught the rear of the field stacking up the faster cars. That allowed SVG to get past Gibbs for the lead. Christopher Bell(20) also passed Gibbs and began to press SVG for the lead.

Corey LaJoie brought out the first yellow flag of the day on lap 17 as he lost traction and spun around facing the wrong way on the track. Under caution the rain began to fall all around the course. NASCAR opted to finish the Stage under caution so that Stage results were not determined by pit stops.

As the cars circled the course under caution the intensity of the rain increased. After completing the Stage all teams will be switching to the wet weather tires.

Stage One Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 16 Shane Van Gisbergen 10
2 20 Christopher Bell 9
3 54 Ty Gibbs 8
4 14 Chase Briscoe* 7
5 5 Kyle Larson 6
6 48 Alex Bowman 5
7 23 Bubba Wallace 4
8 38 Todd Gilliland* 3
9 45 Tyler Reddick 2
10 99 Daniel Suarez 1

*Ford Mustang Dark Horse Drivers

Stage Two

During the Stage ending caution NASCAR informed the teams that the race would conclude at 8:20 pm local time (central time zone) if weather delays caused the event to run long.

As drivers exited the pit road after their stops to change tires traffic stacked up as the jet dryers were passing on the track. Reddick ran into the back of his teammate Bubba Wallace(23) causing minor damage to the front of Reddick’s car.

Zane Smith(71) stayed on the track, as he was running on wet weather tires already, and led the field to the restart. Bell, on the front row next to Smith, slid sideways as he accelerated allowing Ty Gibbs to take the lead from the second row.

Racing in the rain at Chicago / NASCAR Photo

Wallace spun on the first lap back under green as the track had some standing water. The spray of water generated by the cars made visibility difficult.

Chase Briscoe(14) got loose in turn six and slid into the tire barrier. Briscoe made slight contact with Van Gisbergen causing him to slam hard into the wall. While Briscoe drove away from the incident, SVG’s car suffered terminal damage. Last year’s winner will finish last in this year’s race.

NASCAR displayed the caution to remove the damaged car from the track. As the field came around to pit road the pace car brought them in and the race was red flagged to allow the jet dryers to remove the standing water from the track.

Shane Van Gisbergen’s car is towed away after his crash / NASCAR Photo

Crews quickly covered their cars as the rain turned into a torrent.

After an hour of working on the track the jet dryers had removed enough water to resume racing. Drivers were called to their cars and just before getting the command to restart engines, the skies opened again.

After a 1:43 red flag delay cars returned to the track. The race restarted single file with 14 laps to go in Stage Two. However, only one hour remains until the NASCAR mandated time limit due to expected darkness.

The top five were Gibbs, Bell, Larson, Reddick, and Todd Gilliland(38). On the first lap back to green flag racing Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) and Denny Hamlin(11) got together and spun into the tire barrier in turn 11.

Out front, Bell moved to the lead and began to pull away from the pack. Kyle Larson locked up the brakes on his car and drove straight into the tire barrier in turn six.

The caution came out as he had to be pulled out from underneath the tire stacks. Larson tried to limp the car back to pit road but stopped on the course and had to be towed.

Larson wrecks and sustains too much damage to continue racing. / NASCAR Photo

Despite missing the race at Charlotte and not recording any points, Larson led the points standings coming into Chicago. He won’t be the leader when leaving as he will be credited with a 39th place finish after being towed to the garage.

The restart came with eight laps to go in the Stage and 40 minutes remaining on the clock. The track is graying up nicely and it is expected that teams will switch back to slick tires during the Stage ending caution. Josh Berry(4) and Chase Briscoe slid into the tire barrier at the end of the front straight. Both were able to continue with minor damage.

John Hunter Nemechek(42) made an appearance in the top five as laps wound down to the end of Stage Two.

Most of the cars outside of the top 20 opted to pit with three laps to go before pit road was closed. The front of the field came in on the next lap totally changing the leaderboard. Joey Hand(60) became the new leader of the race.

Stage Two Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 60 Joey Hand* 10
2 48 Alex Bowman 9
3 6 Brad Keselowski* 8
4 77 Carson Hocevar 7
5 19 Martin Truex Jr. 6
6 10 Noah Gragson* 5
7 31 Daniel Hemric 4
8 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 3
9 21 Harrison Burton* 2
10 41 Ryan Preece* 1

*Ford Mustang Dark Horse Drivers

The Final Stage

With less than 20 minutes remaining on the race clock the teams out front opted to stay out and finish the race on wet weather tires. Fuel will not be a problem as all teams have enough to finish the distance. Bell restarts in 13th and Gibbs in 15th.

Joey Hand is looking to become another first time winner in the Cup Series. Alex Bowman(48) in second wants the win to lock into the playoffs. Bowman takes the lead with ten minutes to go and Josh Berry slams into a tire barrier bringing out the caution that will bleed more time off the race clock.

Bell could only progress to the ninth spot and his is the fastest car in the field, Gibbs sat in 12th.

The single file restart came with four minutes and 30 seconds on the clock. It is a two car race as Bowman and Hand pull away from the pack.

Back in the pack, Bell gets tuned and looses several positions. Contact is happening all around the track as drivers fight for every position.

The clock expires and Bowman takes the white flag with a two second advantage over Tyler Reddick. Reddick on slicks is running down the leader.

Bowman, who has never won on a road course, holds off Reddick who tapped the wall on the final lap taking himself out of contention. Only 58 of the schedule 75 laps were completed.

Bowman Wins Chicago / NASCAR Photo

Now, only four spots remain in the playoff chase for drivers who can post their first win of 2024.

NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings

RK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 Kyle Larson 671 In Win(3)
2 Denny Hamlin 629 In Win(3)
3 William Byron 599 In Win(3)
4 Christopher Bell 586 In Win(3)
5 Chase Elliott 660 In Win
6 Tyler Reddick 648 In Win
7 Ryan Blaney* 587 In Win
8 Brad Keselowski* 558 In Win
9 Alex Bowman 553 In Win
10 Joey Logano* 484 In Win
11 Daniel Suarez 410 In Win
12 Austin Cindric* 389 In Win
13 Martin Truex Jr. 601 +125
14 Ty Gibbs 560 +84
15 Ross Chastain 529 +53
16 Chris Buescher* 521 +45
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
17 Bubba Wallace 476 -45
18 Chase Briscoe* 433 -88
19 Kyle Busch 423 -98
20 Todd Gilliland* 400 -121

*Ford Mustang Dark Horse Drivers

Results of the Grant Park 165 from the Streets of Chicago

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
1 48 Alex Bowman 58
2 45 Tyler Reddick 2.863 58
3 54 Ty Gibbs 2.930 58
4 60 Joey Hand 8.513 58
5 34 Michael McDowell 8.584 58
6 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 12.411 58
7 38 Todd Gilliland 13.212 58
8 24 William Byron 13.607 58
9 8 Kyle Busch 14.757 58
10 12 Ryan Blaney 16.041 58
11 99 Daniel Suarez 19.301 58
12 31 Daniel Hemric 19.557 58
13 23 Bubba Wallace 20.637 58
14 10 Noah Gragson 22.513 58
15 2 Austin Cindric 22.672 58
16 51 Justin Haley 22.910 58
17 71 Zane Smith 23.294 58
18 6 Brad Keselowski 23.320 58
19 3 Austin Dillon 23.553 58
20 17 Chris Buescher 24.047 58
21 9 Chase Elliott 27.289 58
22 1 Ross Chastain 27.691 58
23 22 Joey Logano 29.559 58
24 77 Carson Hocevar 29.576 58
25 21 Harrison Burton 30.725 58
26 15 Kaz Grala 32.215 58
27 7 Corey LaJoie 37.083 58
28 66 Josh Bilicki 37.383 58
29 43 Erik Jones 37.718 58
30 11 Denny Hamlin 38.061 58
31 33 Austin Hill 42.144 58
32 14 Chase Briscoe 48.010 58
33 19 Martin Truex Jr. 58.185 58
34 41 Ryan Preece 65.832 58
35 42 John Hunter Nemechek -1 57
36 4 Josh Berry -1 57
37 20 Christopher Bell -3 55
38 13 AJ Allmendinger -10 48
39 5 Kyle Larson -25 33
40 16 Shane Van Gisbergen -34 24