Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bowyer, MWR Break Through

Michael Waltrip Racing has been very strong all season long, with very promising runs from Mark Martin, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., and Brian Vickers.  While they had been strong, many didn't believe the team would be very good at Sonoma.  MWR proved them wrong; the entire team ran inside the Top 10 all day, and Clint Bowyer broke through to win his first race of 2012 and his first as a driver of Michael Waltrip Racing.

Clint Bowyer celebrates his first road course win (Courtesy Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose led the field to the green flag, and when they got to the top of the hill, Ambrose had pulled ahead of Jeff Gordon to take the lead.  Right from the start, Travis Kvapil's left-front tire was locked up, but he was able to get back to pit road.  On lap 12, Marcos Ambrose locked up the right-front tire and Gordon was able to get around him for the lead, after stalking Ambrose since the beginning of the race.  Ambrose hadn't run a long green-flag run in practice, and his team was worried about how the car would handle on long green-flag runs.  By lap 17, Ambrose had fallen all the way to fifth as the handling on the car began going away from him.  On lap 19, Ryan Newman spun in Turn 11, but the race continued on without a caution.

On lap 24, Martin Truex Jr. became the first driver to pull off the track and pit for green-flag pit stops.  On lap 25, Clint Bowyer ran down Jeff Gordon and made a pass for the lead.  By lap 37, the green-flag pit stops had cycled around, and Martin Truex Jr. was the new leader.  Truex had pitted about ten laps before everyone else and inherited the lead when his MWR Teammate Clint Bowyer pitted. 

On lap 49, Truex Jr. gave up the lead to Clint Bowyer to make his second pit stop of the day.  Truex and AJ Allmendinger were one of the few on a three-pit stop race strategy, while most of the field was only going to have to make two pit stops.  On lap 69, Carl Edwards hit pit road to begin another round of green-flag pit stops.  While everyone was pitting, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon ran out of gas before they could make it to pit road. 

Marcos Ambrose leads Jeff Gordon (Courtesy Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., who had already made two pit stops during the day, gave up the lead to come to pit road on lap 73.  When the stops cycled around, Clint Bowyer found himself back in the lead.  With 30 laps to go, Bowyer got caught behind Harvick and that allowed Kurt Busch to close in to within one second of Bowyer.  On lap 82, the first caution of the day came out for Tomy Drissi, who spun and hit the wall.

On lap 87, Clint Bowyer led Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. on the restart.  Clint Bowyer was able to stay ahead of Kurt Busch following the restart.  On lap 88, Jamie McMurray spun, but was able to keep going without a caution.  On lap 94, Denny Hamlin was spun by his teammate Joey Logano.

With 14 laps to go, Kurt Busch was able to close up to the back bumper of Clint Bowyer's car.  Busch continued to stay right behind Bowyer, bumping him every time they went through Turn 11.  With seven laps to go, Bowyer began to pull away from Busch.  At the same time, Tony Stewart was able to get around Jimmie Johnson for third place. 

Bowyer leads Kurt Busch (51) late in the race (Courtesy Getty Images)
With four laps to go, Kyle Busch got loose under breaking and got into the back of Paul Menard, spinning them both out.  The race was pushed to a green-white-checkered finish, and Clint Bowyer led Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, and Brian Vickers on the restart.  Busch got a good restart, but Bowyer was able to stay ahead of him.  On the restart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was spun around, and was drilled by Aric Almirola and Regan Smith.  Going into Turn 6 on the final lap, Tony Stewart drove it into the corner deep to pick up second place.  Heading into Turn 11, Stewart tried to close up as much as he could to Bowyer, but it wasn't enough, and Clint Bowyer won his first race of 2012.

Tony Stewart didn't have enough time to catch Bowyer, and he had to settle for second.  Kurt Busch finished third after breaking something in the rear of the car.  Brian Vickers, who stepped in for Mark Martin this weekend, finished fourth.  Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon finished fifth and sixth, respectively.  Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose, AJ Allmendinger, and Joey Logano rounded out the Top 10.  Brad Keselowski finished 12th, and Kyle Busch finished 17th following his wreck that brought out the last caution.  Carl Edwards finished 21st after a tough day.  Martin Truex Jr., who led early, was spun on the last lap and finished 22nd.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. got into a wreck with two laps to go and finished 23rd.  Juan Pablo Montoya, who many though would fight for the victory, finished 34th, five laps down.

Clint Bowyer won Michael Waltrip Racing's first race of the season at Sonoma.  The race wasn't very exciting for the majority of the race, but two cautions at the end tightened up the racing and made for an exciting finish.  Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Kentucky Speedway, for the track's second Sprint Cup Series race.  The Quaker State 400 will be Saturday night at 6:30, only on TNT.

Photo courtesy Getty Images

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