DOVER, Del. – Of course, it was sunny Monday for the Hendrick Motorsports team photo filled with virtually every employee, driver and the four cars that swept the top four spots last year at Dover. Sun or not, cloudy-eyed race winner Alex Bowman needed his sunglasses.

“It was a little difficult,” Bowman said with a laugh. “Sunday night was a good party with me and my team. We had a cool photo. But I wear sunglasses for a reason. It was a nice time.”

Bowman led a Hendrick pack that found a little slice of history at the Monster Mile with the 1-2-3-4 finish a year ago. Kyle Larson led a record 263 laps and finished second, Chase Elliott finished third and William Byron fourth. Hendrick Motorsports won its 267th NASCAR race and now has a record 284 wins heading into Sunday’s race.

Hendrick joined Peter DePaolo Racing (1956 at Titusville and 1957 at North Wilkesboro) and Roush Fenway Racing (2005 Homestead-Miami Speedway) as the only racing teams to claim the top four spots in a Cup Series race.

“I was really happy to have the bragging rights to be ahead of that,” Bowman said.

A year later, Hendrick wouldn’t surprise anyone if he clinched the top four again.

Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain became the surprise of the season with two wins from the first 10 Cup races, but Hendrick has four. Bowman won the third race of the season in Las Vegas, had six top-10 finishes and had a career-best four wins in 2021 with the type of effort that should score him in the championship table.

“You always want more, but we’re doing our best to keep that consistency throughout the summer,” he said. “I think we’ve done a good job so far. Just keep digging.”

Bowman drives the No. 48 Chevrolet, the same number and manufacturer that former driver Hendrick Jimmie Johnson used on his way to a record 11 wins. Bowman said after his win he tried to run “the Jimmie Johnson line” on the concrete track. But the old playbook no longer works as NASCAR has switched this season to its “Next Gen” car and is taking it to Dover for the first time.

“Your notebook is out the window,” Bowman said. “I wouldn’t have predicted that he did what he did in Martinsville. I think even though it’s hard to pass, we raced in front there from way back in the peloton.”

No matter the car over the years, Hendrick is usually the betting favorite to win at Dover for a reason. Thanks in large part to Johnson, HMS has 21 victories at Dover. Hall of Famer and current Hendrick executive Jeff Gordon is a five-time Monster Mile winner.

Speaking of Gordon, how is he settling into his first season as VP at Hendrick?

“He’s driving his monowheel in the parking lot, the last one I saw,” Bowman said. “He didn’t know how to stop. I was driving next to him and I was like, I have to get out of here. I can’t be responsible for anything that’s going on here. I hope he’s out of this thing and back to his office.”

Alex Bowman gets the checkered flag as he finishes first in a NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway last year in Dover, Del. This weekend, Bowman can defend that title at a rebranded track as NASCAR heads to the Monster Mile for another race. (AP/Chris Szagola)