Sonoma, Calif.,—A late race caution in Sunday’s Toyota/Savemart 350 at Sonoma set up a Green-White-Checker finish, but Clint Bowyer was able to hold off Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart to pick up the road course victory for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Bowyer walked to victory lane leaving the winning car sitting on the track—out of fuel.
“I did a pretty good burnout back there in the back and it started to blubber back there,” said Bowyer. “I’m super excited for everybody involved, to be in victory lane with this group so early in the season is just a dream come true.”
“To switch teams like I did was a huge risk and a chance for me and it was obviously the chance for me to showcase my talent,” Bowyer added.
Bowyer says all three Waltrip entries have been running well this season because they are all working together.
“That’s something that I’m very proud of,” said Bowyer.
Kurt Busch was choked up after emerging from the car with a third place finish. Busch said the combination of being in contention, being considerate to Bowyer, and a late race mistake of hitting the tires in Turn 11 caused the onslaught of emotion.
“Just glad we brought it home third,” said Busch, who said the contact with the tires bent the right front and broke the track bar. “For years they’ve [tires] never been bolted down, and they were bolted down this time.”
“We were nice and steady today,” Busch added.
Busch’s car damage allowed Stewart to take over the second spot, but it was too late in the race to catch Bowyer. Stewart said the damage to Busch’s car was significant.
“I don’t know how he kept it on the race track,” said Stewart, who added the caution on lap 81 was the break they needed to gain track position.
“We had a chance to come in for fuel and four tires and that put us up there,” Stewart said. “We had a really good car, but it took us all day to get track position.”
Brian Vickers returned to the track in the No. 55 and finished fourth. Vickers said racing sports cars in Europe was a real benefit to the success at Sonoma.
“It took me a few runs to get back used to the heavy car,” said Vickers. “I think that all that time over there [Europe] really helped me.”
Vickers said the car was “phenomenal” on the long runs, “that very last run I got loose,” said Vickers. “They just got enough distance on us that we couldn’t catch them.”
Jimmie Johnson finished fifth, Jeff Gordon rallied to finish sixth, and Greg Biffle finished seventh. Polesitter Marcos Ambrose was eighth, Brad Keselowski was ninth, and Joey Logano rounded out the top-10.
Matt Kenseth takes over the Sprint Cup points lead, 11 points over teammate Biffle. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-14) drops one spot to third, Johnson (-25) is fourth, and Stewart (-63) is fifth. Kevin Harvick is 64 points behind the leader in sixth, Bowyer is 67 points behind in seventh, and Danny Hamlin is 73 points behind in eighth. Martin Truex, Jr. (-76) is ninth, and Keselowski is in the 10th spot behind 106 points.
Other notes from the Toyota/Savemart 350:
After last week’s dominate win, Earnhardt finished in the 23rd position after an incident of the first Green-White-Checker attempt that involved Aric Almirola and Jeff Burton. Earnhardt spun with help from Burton, and had damage to the No. 88. Earnhardt was able to get back on the track and finish the race on the lead lap.
“We didn’t have real good speed in the race, we just kind of hung around and were going to finish in the top-15 there,” said Earnhardt. “Just the Green-White-Checker, there will be some victims on that deal and I was one of them.”