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Bowyer holds off Smoke for Sonoma win

NASCAR Sprint Cup at Sonoma
Sunday, June 24, 2012

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Clint Bowyer celebrates
Bob Heathcote/AR1.com

Clint Bowyer's victory in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma was a surprise to the driver who chased him for more than 20 laps -- Kurt Busch -- but in retrospect, history may have been on Bowyer's side.

"I just kept thinking, 'He's a dirt late model racer from the Midwest -- there's no way he can be able to run the road course,' but he did," said Busch, who finished third despite hitting a tire barrier in Turn 11 at the 1.99-mile track and breaking the panhard bar on his No. 51 Chevrolet.

With Busch's car damaged and vulnerable to a pass during a green-white-checkered-flag finish that took the event two laps beyond its scheduled 110 laps, Bowyer held off charging Tony Stewart to claim his first victory of the season and the sixth of his career.

Tony Stewart came up just short
Bob Heathcote/AR1.com
Stewart passed Kurt Busch for the second position after the final restart and finished .829 seconds behind Bowyer's No. 15 Toyota. Busch held the third spot, followed by Brian Vickers -- doing spot duty in Michael Waltrip Racing's No. 55 Toyota -- and Jimmie Johnson.

Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, pole-sitter Marcos Ambrose, AJ Allmendinger and Joey Logano completed the top 10 in a race that began with a record green-flag run of 82 laps and featured a record-low two cautions.

After a look at Bowyer's record at Sonoma, the road-course victory seems much less surprising than Busch might have thought at first blush. In six previous starts, the dirt-tracker from the Midwest had finished fourth three times and eighth once.

"He's shown consistency, so it was a matter of time before he would get one," said Stewart, who caught a break when the caution flag waved for the first time on Lap 82. Stewart's crew hadn't filled the fuel cell in the No. 14 Chevrolet, and the caution gave him a chance to pit for fuel and tires.

Kurt Busch
Bob Heathcote/AR1.com
Bowyer did a majestic job of driving in the closing laps to hold off Kurt Busch, who harried him lap after lap until the No. 51 hit the tires on Lap 102.

Bowyer pulled away to a lead of more than one second before Kyle Busch and Paul Menard spun in Turn 7 to cause the second caution.

"Without a doubt, I thought I could have pressured Bowyer into a mistake," Kurt Busch said. "He was there for the taking . . . and I couldn't do it when my panhard bar broke. The rear end was too unstable under braking.

"So, I just look back at that one moment, and it's just tough -- but solid top-three."

Even though the contact with the tires took Busch out of contention for the win, his handling of the wounded car impressed Stewart.

"I was watching him, and it was -- honestly -- I don't know how he kept it on the race track with how much the rear end was moving around on that car," Stewart said. "I thought he did a really phenomenal job of just hanging on to what he had."

Busch's handling of defeat impressed Bowyer, especially after Busch came to Victory Lane to congratulate the race winner.

The actions of the 2004 champion on Sunday were a far cry from the blow-ups that had resulted in probation and ultimately suspension for the embattled driver earlier this year.

"For him to come to Victory Lane spoke volumes about his character," Bowyer said. "He's a champion of the sport -- you can't lose sight of that. I know there have been a lot of negatives around him, but there were a hell of a lot of positives today for Kurt Busch.

"He had an extremely good run . . . That boy can drive, and when you give him the confidence and the direction and, sometimes, I guess, the discipline to get the job done, he's certainly capable of it. He had me on my toes. He had me scared to death today, and things worked out. When you can beat that guy . . . you know, the two guys behind me were champions of this sport, and that's big, to be able to hold them guys off."

Results

FIN CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy 48/5 112 Running
2 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1 42/0 112 Running
3 51 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction Services 42/1 112 Running
4 55 Brian Vickers Toyota RKMotorsCharlotte.com 40/0 112 Running
5 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 39/0 112 Running
6 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 39/1 112 Running
7 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M / US Stationary 37/0 112 Running
8 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Stanley 37/1 112 Running
9 22 AJ Allmendinger Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 35/0 112 Running
10 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 34/0 112 Running
11 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Wheaties 33/0 112 Running
12 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 32/0 112 Running
13 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Ford EcoBoost 31/0 112 Running
14 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Farmers Insurance 30/0 112 Running
15 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 29/0 112 Running
16 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Rheem 28/0 112 Running
17 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 27/0 112 Running
18 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Quicken Loans / Childrens Tumor Foundation 26/0 112 Running
19 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet McDonald's 25/0 112 Running
20 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Menards / Moen 24/0 112 Running
21 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 23/0 112 Running
22 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 23/1 112 Running
23 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard / 7-Eleven 21/0 112 Running
24 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Clorox 20/0 112 Running
25 195 Scott Speed Ford Leavine Family Racing 19/0 112 Running
26 38 David Gilliland Ford 1-800LoanMart 18/0 112 Running
27 34 David Ragan Ford Green 1 High Performance Green 17/0 112 Running
28 43 Aric Almirola Ford Medallion Financial 16/0 110 In Pit
29 32 Boris Said Ford HendrickCars.com 15/0 110 Running
30 26 Josh Wise * Ford MDS Transport 14/0 110 Running
31 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 13/0 110 Running
32 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 12/0 109 Running
33 249 J.J. Yeley Toyota America Israel Racing / JPO Absorbents 11/0 107 Running
34 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 10/0 107 Running
35 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 9/0 98 Susp.
36 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 8/0 92 Running
37 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing 7/0 84 Susp.
38 10 Tomy Drissi Chevrolet Ice Age Continental Drift 6/0 78 Accident
39 7 Robby Gordon Dodge MAPEI / SaveMart Supermarkets 5/0 73 Steering
40 98 David Mayhew Ford Phil Parsons Racing 0 25 Brakes
41 33 Stephen Leicht * Chevrolet Little Joes Autos.com 3/0 22 Brakes
42 119 Chris Cook Toyota Humphrey Smith Racing 2/0 13 Brakes
43 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves 0 1 Engine

* Denotes Rookie

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