Alex Bowman, who was hoping to pick up where he left off at Martinsville last year - when he managed two sixth-place finishes - had his run cut short in the NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 after being involved in a pileup on the backstretch.
As many as 15 cars were caught up in the melee, which ended Alex Bowman and five other drivers' hopes of finishing the race.
Already battling mechanical issues that were severe enough to have forced him to pit under green flag conditions, the pileup compounded matters further for the driver of the No. 48.
Alex Bowman's strong Stage 2 run
Alex Bowman was running as high as fourth in Stage 2, having jostled his way through 15 cars after starting the race from 20th position.
By the time the fourth caution was out, following Cody Ware's spin into the wall, 19 laps remained in Stage 2, and Bowman, along with other drivers, pitted.
Not long after the restart, the fifth caution was out, and in a two-lap shootout, Team Penske driver Ryan Penske went on to win the second stage as well.
Denny Hamlin finished second, ahead of Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman.
Stage 3: Where it all went wrong for Alex Bowman
The third and final stage was plagued by a flurry of cautions, and after the ninth yellow on Lap 322, Alex Bowman was running in fourth position, behind Ryan Newman, William Byron and Denny Hamlin.
Following the restart with 165 laps to go, the driver of the No. 48 began to hit his stride and had moved all the way up to second.
But that would be the high point of Alex Bowman's race. With 130 laps remaining, the No. 48 Chevrolet started to falter.
Bowman fell from second to fourth position, then to sixth, and finally to ninth before deciding to pit under green. It was later learnt that he had a loose right-front wheel during the previous stop.
If that wasn't enough to ruin Alex Bowman's day, he found himself caught up in a pileup on the backstretch after Chris Buescher bumped into Kyle Busch.
The multi-car incident put an end to the races of Alex Bowman, Michael McDowell, Daniel Suarez, Brad Keselowski, Justin Haley and Ryan Preece.
“It’s very frustrating...Everybody works so hard to give us what we need, and we had such a good race car today," said Alex Bowman during his post-race interview. "I had a loose right-front wheel and that’s just part of racing; things are going to happen. Our pit crew is phenomenal every week. I make mistakes, people make mistakes, it happens. It put us behind the eight ball there and then they all crashed in front of me. I stopped and the guys behind me didn’t stop. It was one of those deals. I hate it. I feel like we had a car capable of winning, which says a lot because I drive this place completely wrong. I’m so bad here. Greg (Ives, Crew Chief), everybody on this No. 48 team have their work cut out for them to make a car work for me and they did that this week. It was phenomenal; couldn’t ask anything more of it, but not much to show for it.”
With just one top 5 finish - his third place at Atlanta - to show for his efforts so far into 2021, Alex Bowman will have his work cut out for the remainder of the season. Fortunately, with the upcoming race scheduled for Richmond - another short-track - the 27-year-old will be hoping to repeat his Martinsville performance and join Hendrick teammates Kyle Larson and William Byron on the winners' list before long.
Also Read: Martin Truex Jr. wins at Martinsville