Drivers in focus leaving Chicago

The on-again-off-again between the Chicago Street Course, NASCAR Cup Series drivers and Mother Nature sent powerhouse drivers to the back of the field and others soaring to the top as time expired in the Windy City.

Maniacal weather halted all action for over 100 minutes under a red flag and yet watered the field just enough to see Alex Bowman evaporate an 80-race winless drought with his Chicago win.

RELATED: Race results | At-track photos

Before the Cup Series makes its way to Pocono Raceway on Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET, USA, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App), see which drivers are climbing upward or tumbling downward.


1. Alex Bowman, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Started: 8th

Finished: 1st

What happened: In a thrilling show on the Chicago streets, Alex Bowman shattered an 80-race dry spell, marking his first win since early March 2022 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He made a bold pass on the No. 60 Ford of Joey Hand on Lap 51 and eventually ran away with the lead after holding off a resurgent Tyler Reddick. Bowman’s Sunday success solidified Hendrick Motorsports’ 2024 dominance in the Cup Series as all four drivers have clinched a spot in the playoffs via a points-paying race victory.

What’s next: Bowman will take his talents to the “Tricky Triangle” next week, where the No. 48 Chevrolet took home the victory in 2021. In other words, momentum certainly remains on Bowman’s side.

Alex Bowman poses for a photo in Victory Lane at the Chicago Street Course.
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

2. Michael McDowell, No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford

Started: 3rd

Finished: 5th

What happened: Michael McDowell continues to prove competitive on road courses, following up on his runner-up finish at Sonoma Raceway earlier in the season. However, such a finish in the Windy City didn’t come easy as the No. 34 pilot saw himself outside the top 20 in Stages 1 (37th) and 2 (27th). Even still, the No. 34 driver gradually wheeled his way toward the front and capitalized where needed. Having also scored a top-10 finish on the Chicago streets in 2023, McDowell sure has left his mark in Chicago.

What’s next: McDowell’s tricky history at Pocono in 2022 will not stop his performance there as he will chase the win next Sunday in Long Pond. In 21 career Cup races there, McDowell holds two top-10 finishes.

Michael McDowell throw item into crowd at Chicago.
Meg Oliphant | Getty Images

3. Kyle Busch, No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Started: 19th

Finished: 9th

What happened: Kyle Busch has experienced an unfortunate year in the Cup Series so far, totaling four DNFs in the last six races. Sunday may have reignited his playoff hopes as he remained steady throughout the windy roads in the Windy City. Busch jumped back into a top-10 finish, his first since Kansas Speedway in early May.

What’s next: Like McDowell, Kyle Busch, too, has a past with Pocono, facing disqualification after finishing second to Denny Hamlin, who was also disqualified. Busch will head to Pennsylvania as well, hoping to continue the speed from Chicago. Although his disqualification at Pocono in 2022 might still sting, he does still maintain hearty results at the track, which includes four wins and 585 laps led in the Cup Series.

MORE: Watch NASCAR video highlights

Kyle Busch walks.
Meg Oliphant | Getty Images


1. Kyle Larson, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Started: 1st

Finished: 39th

What happened: Kyle Larson hung within the top five throughout most of his time during the 2024 running on the Chicago streets. Larson entered this race sitting on the pole, with three wins in his grasp already from Sonoma, Las Vegas, and a photo finish at Kansas. However, on Lap 34 in Turn 6, Larson locked his brakes, deeply burying his No. 5 in the tire barrier. He was towed from the wreckage and tried to navigate back to pit road, ultimately slicing his chances of conquering Victory Lane for a fourth time.

What’s next: Fresh off the defeat, Larson will be back to perform at Pocono on Sunday. He has finished inside the top 20 in each of the last five races at the track and hopes to continue the streak.

Kyle Larson looks on.
Meg Oliphant | Getty Images

2. Shane van Gisbergen, No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet

Started: 5th

Finished: 40th

What happened: Shane van Gisbergen was a heavy favorite going into the second-annual event as he was the inaugural and reigning champion in Chicago. However, van Gisbergen was clipped by the No. 14 Ford of Chase Briscoe, which sent the No. 16 Chevrolet into the wall and ultimately ended the New Zealand native’s day on Lap 26. The incident came after winning Saturday’s Xfinity race and prevailing in Stage 1 of Sunday’s Cup contest.

What’s next: The Kiwi driver will make his next Cup Series start at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 24.

Shane van Gisbergen waves.
Meg Oliphant | Getty Images

3. Chase Elliott, No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Started: 18th

Finished: 21st

What happened: Earlier this year, Chase Elliott joined his father, Bill, on the list of drivers to begin the regular season with 16-plus top-20 finishes. Unfortunately, Elliot’s skillful streak was snapped Sunday as Elliott couldn’t beat out the clock to put forth another such finish at Chicago.

What’s next: Chase Elliott drove off with the checkered flag at Pocono in 2022 and followed up with a 10th-place finish in 2023. In 14 career Cup starts at the track, Elliott has one win, four top fives and nine top 10s. And so, the No. 9 will search to start a new streak in Pennsylvania.

Chase Elliot prepares for qualifying at Chicago.
Meg Oliphant | Getty Images