Bowyer Hangs On To Win Cup Race At Sonoma
Clint Bowyer got his first victory of the season and his first victory since moving to Michael Waltrip Racing in the offseason Sunday when he won the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway.
It was his sixth career victory and first since he won with Richard Childress Racing last fall at Talladega Superspeedway.
Bowyer led a race-best 71 laps. It was his first-ever road-course victory and it moved him from ninth to seventh in points.
“It’s huge towards the Chase and everything else,” Bowyer said of the win. “This is big for our confidence level — this team. It’s a young organization that’s going to be in this sport a long time and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Tony Stewart of Stewart-Haas Racing, who started 24th, finished second.
“Just like we planned,” Stewart said. “We planned on letting everything get settled down for a couple of laps and just going one at a time so we had an unfortunate-fortunate break at the end. On the second to last pit stop there something happened on plugging the fuel in and didn’t get it full so that second to last caution there we got a chance to come in for fuel and four tires and that got us up there. “We just had eight or 10 laps fresher tires than those guys. We still had to fight our way through there. We had a really good car; we just took all day to get the track position.”
Third was Kurt Busch, who lost second place to Stewart on the final lap, which came after a green/white/checkered restart.
Part-time Cup driver Brian Vickers, Bowyer’s MWR teammate, finished fourth while Jimmie Johnson was fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 were Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose, A.J. Allmendinger and Joey Logano.
“We had a decent day but we were just too loose all day,” Biffle, who lost his points lead two weeks ago at Pocono after finishing 24th there, said. “We didn’t have enough forward drive to turn the way we needed. We need to work on our road course program a little bit. Matt (Puccia) made a great call to salvage a good day for us. It is disappointing we can’t run any better than we are.”
Pole-sitter Ambrose of Richard Petty Motorsports led the first 11 laps on the 1.99-mile, 12-turn circuit before having it taken away by Gordon, a five-time winner at Sonoma.
“We really missed it,” Ambrose said. “I just feel bad for my Stanley team. We missed it bad and we did good to recover and get a top-10 out of it. We will take it and move on. We got the pole and had a lot of speed; we just missed it for the race. We were slow. It was just terrible. We had no speed in the car and we paid the price.”
Gordon held the lead for 13 laps before the rear tires of his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet began to wear. The lead was then taken by Bowyer.
Bowyer kept the lead until green flag pit stops nine laps later. When he pitted, Martin Truex Jr. of Michael Waltrip Racing, who was utilizing a different pit-stop schedule, took the lead.
Bowyer went back to the lead on lap 50 when Truex pitted.
That scene played out again when green-flag stops began around lap 74 of the 110-lap race: Bowyer pitted and Truex took the lead until he pitted a couple laps later.
With 22 laps to go, Tomy Drissi crashed and the caution flag waved for the first time. Bowyer and others at the front of the field stayed out but Bowyer’s big lead disappeared. For a moment.
After the race went green, Bowyer got moving again as he and Kurt Busch of Phoenix Racing ran away and built a 3-plus-second lead over the rest of the field.
With 13 laps to go, Busch moved in on Bowyer’s rear bumper and began applying pressure. Busch dogged Bowyer for four laps but with about eight to go, Busch faded.
“It’s an amazing day when you can do what we did today,” he said. “I’m a little choked up because A, we were in position. B, I was very considerate to (Clint) Bowyer who was going for his first win with the new team. And then C, which was most important, I made a mistake. I got into those tires in turn 11 and for years they have never been bolted down. They were bolted down this time. It bent the right front up and it broke the panhard bar and I’m just glad we brought it home third. If I was smarter, I would have let Tony Stewart go a lap, a half-a-lap ahead. Maybe he could have got to (Clint) Bowyer for a big finale. Unbelievable day with Chevrolet.
“I want to thank James Finch who is at home. He said, ‘To hell with that road racing stuff I don’t need that’. I was hoping I could be there and could bring it home for them, but amazing job the guys did. It was just nice and steady today. I just made that one mistake and if you’re not perfect in this game in Sprint Cup then it’s tough. Thanks to Monster, Tag Heuer and those guys for sticking with me. This car is available, I was going to call us Team Tiger Blood if we won, but I still might.”
With four laps to go, Kyle Busch spun Paul Menard and the caution flag came out for the second time.
That sent the race to a green/white/checkered restart with Bowyer in P1, Busch next to him and Stewart and Johnson behind them.
Bowyer got a good jump, put several car lengths between him and Busch and Stewart and came home with the victory.
Bowyer, however, had to walk to Victory Lane after his car quit during burnouts.
“I did a pretty good burnout back there in the back and then we started to blubber back there in the back,” Bowyer said. “Super excited for everybody involved to be in victory lane with this group so early in the season. It’s a dream come true. I’m very proud of all our partners, especially everybody at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing). To switch teams like I did was a huge risk and a chance for me and it was obviously a chance for me to showcase my talents. I’m proud of everybody back home at the shop — thank you guys for building us real good race cars.”
1. (6) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 112, $314,089.
2. (24) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 112, $239,465.
3. (8) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 112, $181,623.
4. (21) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 112, $132,340.
5. (3) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 112, $155,576.
6. (2) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 112, $150,876.
7. (4) Greg Biffle, Ford, 112, $112,765.
8. (1) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 112, $134,373.
9. (17) AJ Allmendinger, Dodge, 112, $137,840.
10. (14) Joey Logano, Toyota, 112, $103,615.
11. (35) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 112, $136,280.
12. (13) Brad Keselowski, Dodge, 112, $125,650.
13. (9) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 112, $135,391.
14. (15) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 112, $97,905.
15. (20) Casey Mears, Ford, 112, $106,338.
16. (26) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 112, $133,391.
17. (7) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 112, $130,738.
18. (10) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 112, $127,138.
19. (25) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 112, $117,288.
20. (23) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 112, $93,630.
21. (11) Carl Edwards, Ford, 112, $128,796.
22. (5) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 112, $111,844.
23. (19) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 112, $91,805.
24. (18) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 111, $105,313.
25. (22) Scott Speed, Ford, 111, $79,755.
26. (27) David Gilliland, Ford, 111, $93,663.
27. (29) David Ragan, Ford, 111, $90,902.
28. (30) Aric Almirola, Ford, 110, $117,616.
29. (28) Boris Said, Ford, 110, $88,455.
30. (40) Josh Wise, Ford, 110, $83,305.
31. (42) Landon Cassill, Toyota, 110, $105,975.
32. (31) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 109, $84,960.
33. (38) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 107, $76,850.
34. (12) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 107, $106,726.
35. (16) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Suspension, 98, $121,591.
36. (39) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, 92, $84,490.
37. (32) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, Suspension, 84, $76,355.
38. (41) Tomy Drissi, Chevrolet, Accident, 78, $76,242.
39. (34) Robby Gordon, Dodge, Steering, 73, $72,800.
40. (33) David Mayhew, Ford, Brakes, 25, $72,625.
41. (43) Stephen Leicht, Chevrolet, Brakes, 22, $80,450.
42. (37) Chris Cook, Toyota, Brakes, 13, $72,355.
43. (36) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, Engine, 1, $72,724.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 83.624 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 39 Mins, 55 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 0.829 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 2 for 7 laps.
Lead Changes: 8 among 5 drivers.
Lap Leaders: M. Ambrose 1-11; J. Gordon 12-24; C. Bowyer 25-33; Kurt Busch 34; M. Truex Jr. 35-47; C. Bowyer 48-70; Kurt Busch 71; M. Truex Jr. 72-73; C. Bowyer 74-112.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): C. Bowyer 3 times for 71 laps; M. Truex Jr. 2 times for 15 laps; J. Gordon 1 time for 13 laps; M. Ambrose 1 time for 11 laps; Kurt Busch 2 times for 2 laps.
Top 12 in Points: M. Kenseth – 596; G. Biffle – 585; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 582; J. Johnson – 571; T. Stewart – 533; K. Harvick – 532; C. Bowyer – 529; D. Hamlin – 523; M. Truex Jr. – 520; B. Keselowski – 490; C. Edwards – 479; Kyle Busch – 459.One Comment