JOLIET, Ill. -- When Alex Bowman was tapped to take the ride of NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. a year ago, he knew the pressure of pleasing the sport's most rabid fan base would be riding shotgun with him every time a green flag dropped.
On a rain-lengthened race Sunday, June 30, at Chicagoland Speedway, Bowman was finally able to give Junior Nation something to feel good about as he put the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet back in Victory Lane.
The victory in the Camping World 400 was Bowman's first in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and secures him a victory in the Playoffs, which are now just 10 races away.
"This is all I wanted my whole life," Bowman said. "I feel like this is a lot of validation for a lot of people who said we couldn't do this."
To get his victory, he had to pass Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing with six laps to go. His margin of victory over Larson was .583 seconds.
Joey Logano of Team Penske finished third. Rounding out the top five were Bowman's teammate, Jimmie Johnson and Logano's teammate, Brad Keselowski.
Richard Childress Racing's Austin Dillon started from the pole but on Lap 9, Johnson moved past to take the lead. Dillon finished 10th on the day.
Just after Johnson assumed the lead, the yellow flag waved, and then the red, as lightning began flashing around the track. The lightning was followed by high winds and torrential rains.
The red flag stayed out for over three hours. When racing resumed at just after 6:30 p.m. Eastern time, the temperature had dropped from the low 90s to the low 70s.
In his bid to get his first victory since 2017, seven-time Cup champion Johnson sat at the front of the field for over three hours on Sunday. Unfortunately, during those three hours, the race was under red-flag conditions.
Kevin Harvick appeared to be in prime position to get his first victory of the season as he dominated the second stage of the race. But On Lap 171, he got loose in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford while running near the front and slapped the wall. The car of the eight-race winner in 2018 was never the same. He had led 132 laps.
Points leader Kyle Busch saw his chances for a third career win at Chicagoland, a second straight there and a fifth 2019 victory, end when he hit a bump, which sent the right side of his car into the wall on Lap 25. Near the end of the first stage, he blew a tire and would fall a lap off the pace. Late in the race he had to pit under green after the cockpit of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota filled with smoke.