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Bowyer sparkles in Sonoma wine country

"To have a nice, steady pace, and to have a smooth pit strategy for my Phoenix Racing guys, I thought I could deliver for them. We were in contention. We made it all the way to the final restart, and today with all of those long green flag runs, I thought the race would play into our favour," said Busch.

"When you show up and you're on a third of the budget and you almost bring it to victory lane, you can't say that one guy does it out here," he added. "It takes a full team effort. But I really want to deliver for my guys today, and being that close, and make one mistake, it's a tough game."

Busch was also complimentary of Bowyer's show of form at Sonoma. "Our car was a little better on longer runs than Bowyer, but he did a great job," he said. "I just kept thinking, 'He's a dirt late model racer from the Midwest, there's no way he can be able to run the road course!' But he did."

Busch was lucky that there were only a few corners to go, because a little further back Brian Vickers was also on a flier on his new tyres, easily dispatching Jimmie Johnson for fourth: if there had been a couple more laps then the on-form Vickers fresh from piloting Michael Waltrip's Le Mans Ferrari entry the previous weekend would surely have found a way past too.

That was quite a comeback for Vickers, in only his third Cup start of the year subbing for Mark Martin in the #55 after the veteran racer opted for a part-time season in 2012. Vickers had incurred a pit lane speeding penalty during the first round of pit stops and looked to have written himself out of contention, only to drive all the way back into the top four by the time the chequered flag.

"It took me a few laps to get used to it," said Vickers of his return to the cockpit of a Cup stock car. "It's been a while since I've driven a big, heavy car. I've been racing sports cars. Clearly, I'm still missing that pit limiter because I got caught speeding on pit road. I didn't see the lights. Clearly I blew through them. That really hurt us a lot. We drove all the way up to eighth and had to start back over again."

But he had managed to pull it off - no wonder that whispers of Waltrip looking at the feasibility of adding a full-time fourth car for Vickers started to gain traction in the post-race paddock.

The third MWR entry, driven on a three-stop strategy by Truex Jr., also looked set to gain a top six finish only to spin out on the final lap as a result of contact from Joey Logano, who had already previously turned his own Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Denny Hamlin at the hairpin. Truex instead finished in 22nd place by the time he recovered the car, and afterwards marched over to Logano for a discussion about what had transpired.

"I just started getting out of control and was wheel-hopping a little bit and when you start wheel-hopping these things, it's really hard to get them back under control," said Logano in his own defence. "You have to do what you have to do to keep people behind you ... You have to be the aggressor unless you're going to get dumped."

Despite being a road course specialist, Juan Montoya wasn't able to feature in the race as a result of escalating technical gremlins with the #42 that included losing the tachometer showing him his speed for the pit lane, leaving him having to judge his speed by pacing other cars. Fuel alarms and a loss of battery power would leave him five laps off the lead in 34th; his Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing team mate Jamie McMurray got spun at the first restart on lap 88 but still finished in 19th place.




Related Pictures

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Regan Smith (far left) make contact after a multicar melee on the final restart during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma on Sunday, June 24, 2012. (Photo Credit: By Robert Laberge, Getty Images for NASCAR)
Clint Bowyer crosses the finish line first to win the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma on Sunday, June 24, 2012. (Photo Credit: By Todd Warshaw, Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Both Johnson and Harvick are in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS finished in fourth place and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS finished in 2nd place and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished in 26th place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Gordon is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, drives with damage to his car after crashing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS qualified for eleventh position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Earnhardt, Jr. is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, smiles at Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate a Driver Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brian Vickers, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, prepares for practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose in the Richard Petty Motorsport garage at Sonoma Raceway on June 20, 2014 (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cars race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Eckrich Ford, races Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)

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