Michael Waltrip Racing has been on somewhat of a role lately, and Clint Bowyer put the icing on the cake, so to speak, on Sunday when he went to victory lane following the Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Sonoma, Calif.
“That’s pretty freaking amazing right there,” Bowyer’s crew chief, Brian Pattie, said as Bowyer celebrated the win with an obligatory burnout.
Bowyer didn’t get to take his No. 15 MWR Toyota to victory lane with him, though. He ran it out of gas during his burnout so, instead, he had to climb out of the car and walk to victory lane.
Still, it was a win for MWR — the first for the organization this year and the first for Bowyer since leaving Richard Childress Racing for MWR during the offseason.
“To switch teams like I did was a huge risk for me,” Bowyer said when he finally got to victory lane.
Tony Stewart got by Kurt Busch on the final lap to finish second. Busch held on to finish third in his unsponsored No. 51 Phoenix Racing ride that he didn’t practice on Saturday. The No. 51 was parked at Sonoma on Saturday while Busch traveled to Wisconsin to compete in that day’s Nationwide Series race at Road America.
“It’s an amazing day when you do what we did today,” Busch said after the race.
Bowyer took the lead from Jeff Gordon on lap 25 of the race that had a scheduled distance of 110 laps. He held the top spot until most of the field headed down pit road between laps 33 and 34.
That handed the lead over to his MWR teammate, Martin Truex Jr. Unlike most of the other teams in the race on a two-stop plan, Truex’s No. 56 team opted for a three stop plan, having pitted early on lap 23.
Truex held on to the top spot until having to make his second of three stops on lap 48. With his teammate heading down pit road, Bowyer reclaimed the top spot. He then drove out to a lead of more than four-and-a-half seconds over then-second-place driver Jimmie Johnson. Busch got by Johnson on lap 60, but by that time, Bowyer had already driven out to a five-second lead.
Truex briefly reassumed the lead when most of the field headed down pit road between laps 71 and 72, but he gave up the top spot to head down pit road, himself, on lap 73.
That handed the lead back to Bowyer and he held on to the top spot the rest of the way. Busch cycled to second in the running order and gained on Bowyer as Bowyer struggled to get by the lapped No. 29 car of Kevin Harvick.
The entire field got bunched up when the yellow flag waved for the first time for the No. 10 car of Tomy Drissi.
When the race went back to green, Bowyer and Busch pulled away, but this time, Bowyer couldn’t shake Busch, that is until the final laps when the handling on Busch’s car seemed to go away.
The yellow flag waved for the second and final time with four laps to go for a multi-car incident involving Paul Menard, Juan Montoya and Kyle Busch, resulting in a green-white-checkered finish.
When the race went back to green for a two-lap shootout to the finish, Busch was unable to hold off Stewart, who took second on the final lap.
“We made a mistake,” Busch said, explaining that he got into the tire barrier in turn 11. “I just made that one mistake.”
Another MWR entry, the No. 55 of Brian Vickers, overcame a speeding penalty early in the race to finish fourth. Johnson rounded out the top-five.
The third Michael Waltrip Racing entry, Truex’s No. 56, also looked to be on its way to a solid top-five or top-10 finish, but Truex got off-track during the green-white-checker laps and fell back to 22nd.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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