Clint Bowyer knew he could get to NASCAR’s victory lane this year, 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, Calif.
Although Bowyer finished fourth three previous times on this road course, his background is on Midwest dirt tracks and this style of racing isn’t his strong suit.
So the irony of winning 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.
Busch damaged his car with roughly eight laps to go, and he worried 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.
“I’m super excited for everybody involved,” Bowyer said. “To switch teams like I did was a huge risk and a chance for me, and it was a chance to showcase my talents.
“I’ve had good teammates and good stuff before, but never like this. This is a young group, Michael stuck it out and I’m telling you, he’s fixing to reap the benefits. He’s worked hard.”
It was a strong day all-around for MWR, which got a fourth-place finish from Brian Vickers. Tony Stewart passed Busch on the final lap to claim second. Busch wound up third. Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., was seventh and Enumclaw’s Kasey Kahne was 14th.
“You know you’re close on fuel, you’ve got two champions behind you, and you know you have no business leading,” Bowyer said. “But we had a really good car.”
Busch missed Pocono earlier this month because he was suspended by NASCAR for verbally abusing a media member.
“If I can get my head on straight here, and after the race, then I could be able to race every weekend and go for victories,” Busch said.
Spain’s Fernando Alonso won an incident-filled European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain, to become the first driver to win two races this season, while Michael Schumacher earned a first podium finish since his comeback in 2010 by placing third. … Esteban Guerrieri won the Indy Lights race in Newton, Iowa, his third win of the season.