A flat tire on the final lap of Saturday's race at Pocono ended Kyle Larson's winning streak. He was in the lead and ready to make it four consecutive points race wins this year. Alex Bowman, in second, was already apologizing to his team on the radio after relinquishing the lead to Larson with three laps to go.
But a lucky turn of events put Bowman in Victory Lane for the third time in 2021. Larson's left front tire blew on the last lap, sending him into the outside wall. He finished in ninth. Kyle Busch finished in second place. William Byron finished third.
"Hate to win one that way, but hell yeah!" Bowman said on NBCSN. "I'll take it."
Larson appeared somewhat stunned in his postrace interview, possibly to the same degree as Bowman, and called the result "a little bit laughable."
"Just cause I can't believe it," Larson said. "Hate that we didn't get another win. Would've been cool to win five in a row, but just wasn't meant to be I guess today."
Larson has won four points races this season, in addition to the non-points All-Star Race, and was chasing a win that would have put him ahead of Cup Series points leader Denny Hamlin. Larson instead remains second in points, eight behind Hamlin, who finished fourth at Pocono and is still seeking his first victory this season.
Hamlin led laps on Saturday, along with teammate Busch, who appeared ready to battle with Larson for the lead after green flag pit stops cycled through in the final stage. But a caution for debris forced the field to bunch up, and Bowman lined up in the front row on the inside lane ahead of Ryan Blaney, while Busch, Larson and Hamlin lined up on the outside. No. 48 crew chief Greg Ives called that the "winning move" by Bowman.
When the green flag waved, Bowman was able to pull ahead with a shove by Blaney to take the lead. It was then up to him to fend off Larson, who drove up to second, in the final 18 laps. He was nearly able to do so, but Larson completed a pass on the inside coming to the last three laps.
It looked like it was Larson's race to win from there, but then a stroke of luck hit for the No. 48 team. Bowman's earlier victories this season, at Richmond and Dover, have also been as a late-race leader. At Richmond, Bowman led in just the final 10 laps of the race, and at Dover, his team posted a fast pit stop in the final 100 laps to swipe the lead from Larson, who won the first two stages of that event.
"I feel like we've always been a team that ends the day better than we've started the day," Bowman said. "We've never been that win stages type of team, but we've won our share of races here lately."