Sonoma, CA – Clint Bowyer won his first road-course race in the Sprint Cup Series with a dominating performance in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma.
Bowyer, who is in his first year as driver of the No. 15 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, led 71 of the 112 laps on Sonoma's 1.99-mile, 12-turn road course.
The race featured just two cautions, but the last one set up a green-white- checkered ending. Bowyer finished 0.83 seconds ahead of Tony Stewart to earn his sixth career win in the series.
Bowyer left Richard Childress Racing after the 2011 season and joined Michael Waltrip's organization for this season.
"I'm just super excited," Bowyer said. "To be in victory lane with this group so early in the season is just a dream come true. I'm so proud of everybody at MWR. To switch teams like I did was a huge risk for me, and it was obviously a chance for me to showcase my talent."
Prior to Bowyer's win at Sonoma, David Reutimann was the only driver who won a Sprint Cup race for Waltrip. Reutimann's victories for the team came in May 2009 at Charlotte and July 2010 at Chicagoland. He was the odd-man out at MWR when Bowyer and Mark Martin came on board for this year.
Kurt Busch, the defending race winner, chased down Bowyer and made several attempts to take the lead from him in the closing laps, but Busch experienced a mechanical issue with his car prior to the two-lap overtime finish. He ran in second for the final restart, but Stewart passed him for the position on the last lap.
"Something was wrong with (Busch's) car," Stewart said. "Something in the rear end was breaking. He was driving the wheels off of that thing. I don't know how he kept it on the racetrack. Every time he went into the corner, it would get tight on him."
Busch, who was suspended for the Pocono race two weeks ago for violating his probation, nursed his unsponsored No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet to a third- place finish.
"It's an amazing day when you can do what we did today," Busch said. "I'm a little choked up right now, because, a: we were in position, b: I was very considerate to Bowyer, who was going for his first win with a new team, and c: which is the most important, I made a mistake getting into those tires in turn 11. For years, they've never been bolted down, but they were bolted down this time. It dented the right-front up. I'm just glad I brought it home in third."
Busch did not participate in Saturday's final practice at Sonoma since he made the trip to Elkhart Lake, WI to compete in the Nationwide Series race at Road America. He finished eighth in that event, driving the No. 54 car for his younger brother, Kyle.
Bowyer's teammate, Brian Vickers, drove the No. 55 car to a fourth-place finish. Martin is driving that car in 25 races this season, but he did not compete at Sonoma.
Jimmie Johnson finished fifth, followed by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon. Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose, the pole sitter, A.J. Allmendinger and Joey Logano completed the top-10.
Despite a 13th-place finish, Matt Kenseth remained atop the point standings. Kenseth holds an 11-point advantage over his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Biffle.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who ended a four-year winless streak last weekend at Michigan, fell 14 points behind Kenseth after finishing 23rd. Earnhardt Jr. got spun around while running in a tight pack of traffic on the penultimate lap.
"I got ran into coming into (turn) three," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I just kind of hung around and was going to finish in the top-15, but when there's a green- white-checkered, there's going to be some victims on that deal. And I was the one today."
Earnhardt has yet to post a top-10 finish in 13 starts at Sonoma.