Sonoma, Calif. • Clint Bowyer knew he could get to Victory Lane this season, his first with Michael Waltrip Racing.
He just didn’t think it would be on a road course.
Bowyer picked up his first win with his new team Sunday by holding off Kurt Busch on the winding 1.99-mile road course at Sonoma. Although Bowyer finished fourth three previous times on this road course, his background is on dirt tracks and this style of racing isn’t his strong suit.
So the irony of winning Sunday wasn’t lost on Bowyer.
“To have this dirt boy from Kansas at Victory Lane on a road course is big, trust me,” Bowyer said. “I saw Jeff Gordon, he’s sitting there on the wall, he’s won this race many times, he’s a champion of this sport and I just beat him. I passed Jeff Gordon, and you have no idea, a young racer from Kansas, you don’t forget stuff like that.”
Bowyer dominated by leading 71 of the 112 laps. Defending race winner Busch, in an unsponsored car, was all over the bumper of Bowyer’s Toyota late and got a final shot at taking the win away when caution flew with four laps remaining.
But Busch damaged his car by hitting a tire wall with roughly eight laps to go, and he worried the entire caution period whether his Chevrolet was ruined and had no chance of catching Bowyer through the two-lap overtime sprint to the finish.
Bowyer raced side-by-side with Busch at the green flag, then cleared Busch and pulled away for the win.
“Kurt raced me clean, he bumped me and roughed me up, but never did anything to jeopardize either one of us,” Bowyer said.
Bowyer, who left Richard Childress Racing at the end of last season to join MWR, had to walk to Victory Lane to celebrate with his new crew after his car ran out of gas.
It was a strong day all-around for MWR, which got a fourth-place finish from Brian Vickers, who was back to NASCAR after racing last weekend at Le Mans. Martin Truex Jr. led 15 laps, and was running in the top 10 until a late-race incident dropped him to 22nd.
Tony Stewart passed Busch on the final lap to claim second, but said it was because Busch’s car was struggling.
“Every time he would go in the corner, the rear end would shift, and it was running him to the outside of the track on entry and it was screwing his corner up,” Stewart said. “Kind of got it by default there to a certain degree. Once we got by there, we just were not close enough in that last lap to get to Clint.”
Busch wound up third. He was emotional after — Busch missed Pocono earlier this month because he was suspended by NASCAR for verbally abusing a media member — and said he was thrilled to compete for the win in an underfunded, unsponsored Phoenix Racing car.
Vickers was fourth for MWR, followed by Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who ended his four-year losing streak last week at Michigan was 15th on the final restart, but was stacked in traffic and spun, dropping him to 23rd.
Sprint Cup standings
1. M. Kenseth 596 —
2. G. Biffle 585 -11
3. D. Earnhardt Jr. 582 -14
4. J. Johnson 571 -25
5. T. Stewart 533 -63
6. K. Harvick 532 -64
7. C. Bowyer 529 -67
8. D. Hamlin 523 -73
9. M. Truex Jr. 520 -76
10. B. Keselowski 490 -106
11. C. Edwards 479 -117
12. K. Busch 459 -137