This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.
Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano were the early contenders Sunday at Richmond Raceway, but it was Alex Bowman who stole the show on the final restart of the Toyota Owners 400 and scored his first victory of the 2021 season. Hamlin, Truex and Logano finished first, second and third in the first two stages and looked destined to battle it out for the win. Ultimately, a costly error on pit road for Truex and a monster restart from Bowman led to the No. 48 machine sweeping past Hamlin and Logano to steal a win from under their noses. The win was the third of the season for a Hendrick Motorsports driver and signals the end to a slow start to the season for Bowman and the No. 48 team.
There have now been eight different winners from the first nine races, and playoff spots are rapidly filling. That trend of unique victors could easily continue this week at Talladega Superspeedway, too. The massive 2.66-mile track has a habit of producing unpredictable races, and just surviving to race at the finish is half of the battle for teams. Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin won at the track last season, and Hamlin will be desperate to do so again this week after going winless despite scoring eight top-fives in the first nine races of the season.
Alex Bowman – Bowman stole Sunday's race at Richmond Raceway on the final restart. The Hendrick Motorsports driver used a blistering