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Final Turn: Sonoma Comes Up Big Once Again For NASCAR's Clint Bowyer

If Clint Bowyer, from Emporia, Kan., could race all of his NASCAR Sprint Cup events at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, he probably would. In seven starts at the Northern California venue, he has four top-fives, including a win on Sunday.

June 24, 2012; Sonoma, CA, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer (15) takes turn nine during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. Bowyer finished first in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE
June 24, 2012; Sonoma, CA, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer (15) takes turn nine during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. Bowyer finished first in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

Clint Bowyer has always done well at the 1.99-mile Infineon Raceway road course in the heart of Sonoma wine country, but never well enough to earn a trip to Victory Lane.

On Sunday in the Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350, the driver from Emporia, Kan., changed all of that. In six previous races over the winding, hilly Infineon race terrain, Bowyer had recorded three fourth-place runs and an eighth place. On Sunday, the driver of the No. 15 Toyota Camry for Michael Waltrip Racing took command early and held on for his first career win at the Northern California racetrack.

In addition to his first win at Infineon, it was Bowyer's first victory at a NASCAR road course, his first win in a Toyota and his first checkered flag as a member of the Waltrip team, which he joined this season after seven years driving for Richard Childress.

Afterwards, Bowyer attributed the win on Sunday to everyone on his Michael Waltrip race team working together. "All these guys work together and the crew chiefs and engineering staff - everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) - that's what it takes," Bowyer said

"What a wonderful opportunity at this stage in my career to make this jump and make it work. It's just awesome," he said. "This (win) is big for our confidence level. It's a young organization that's going to be in this sport a long time, and I'm proud to be part of it.".

Asked what he thought about road courses, which generally are not the favorite course layout and racing format for NASCAR drivers, now that he had a victory on one under his belt, Bowyer said: This (Infineon) is a fun racetrack, and I had a pretty damn good car, too."

It's been a while since either of the two Kansas City-area NASCAR drivers, Bowyer and Carl Edwards, who hails from in Columbia, Mo., have won a race at NASCAR's top level. Bowyer's last trophy run was in October last year at Talladega, while it's been 49 races without a taste of victory for Edwards, who finished 21st on Sunday at Sonoma.

Here are some other interesting facts and figures to know about Bowyer's sixth career win in the Sprint Cup Series, which moved him into seventh place, from ninth, in the divers' standings, 67 points back of the leader, Matt Kenseth.

  • Bowyer had 12 Sprint Cup starts on road courses (Sonoma and Watkins Glen, NY) before posting his first win.
  • Bowyer's win on Sunday at Infineon Raceway makes his the eighth different winner at Sonoma in as many races.
  • It was Michael Waltrip Racing's first win of 2012 and the first ever at Sonoma. Bowyer's victory was the third Sprint Cup win for Michael Waltrip's team, now in its 10th year of existence.
  • Bowyer led three times for 71 laps in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350, including the final 39 laps of the race (regularly scheduled for 107 laps, but a green-white-checkered finish extended the race to 112 total laps).
  • Of Bowyer's six career wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, four of them are at two tracks. He has two wins each at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 12 career starts at both venues.

News & Notes On Carl Edwards

  • Carl Edwards remains 11th in the Chase for the Cup standings after 16 races in 2012. He trails points-leader Matt Kenseth by 117 points.
  • Edwards' last Sprint Cup win was at Las Vegas in March 2011, 49 races ago.
  • Races at Atlanta and Texas can't come fast enough for the driver of the No. 99 Roush-Fenway Ford. Edwards has three career wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway and eight top-five finishes in 14 starts there, and three wins at Texas Motor Speedway, where he has five top-fives in 14 races. Unfortunately, Atlanta is nine races from now, and Sprint Cup won't be back in Texas until the eighth race in the Chase for the Cup Championship series in November.

Rest Of The Field At Sonoma

  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 23rd-place finish at Sonoma on Sunday was his worst finish of the 2012 season and dropped him to third in the drivers' standings.
  • Kurt Bush's third-place finish was his best of the season.
  • Marcos Ambrose started on the pole for the second consecutive week. He finished eighth at Sonoma and came in ninth at Michigan last week.
  • Tony Stewart, who finished second behind Clint Bowyer at Sonoma on Sunday, has finished in the top three in his last three Cup races.
  • Jimmie Johnson has five top-five finishes in his last six races. He came in fifth in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma.
  • The top five in the points' standings are Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffe (-11), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-14), Jimmie Johnson (-25), Tony Stewart (-63).

Follow NASCAR and the 2012 Sprint Cup Series throughout the season at SB Nation Kansas City.

Other noteworthy developments from Sprint Cup round No. 15 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, about 50 miles southwest of Detroit:

  • It turned out that the blistering qualifying speeds that the drivers were running in the weekend practice and qualifying sessions for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 were the result of unusual blistering on the tires Goodyear brought for the race. The Repaved racing surface at Michigan International Speedway was also a contributor to the tire problem. Highly cognizant of the huge tire issue in the NASCAR event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year, the decision was made to be safe rather than sorry and replace the left-side tires for the race with a harder tire. Goodyear distribution officials worked all night on Friday to get the new tires to Michigan from North Carolina. Obviously the new tires necessitated more than a casual adjustment on the drivers' part from what the setups they had practiced and qualified with. It wasn't really that noticeable in Sunday's race, however.
  • The start of the Quicken Loans 400 on Sunday was delayed by nearly two hours by rain.
  • Hendrick Motorsports went 11 races into the 2012 Sprint Cup season looking for its 200th NASCAR win. Jimmie Johnson's win at Darlington in May finally got Hendrick over the hump. Hendrick drivers have won three of the four races since that time, including Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s first win under Hendrick and first victory in 143 races on Sunday at Michigan. Four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon is the only one of the four Hendrick drivers that hasn't recorded a win this season.
  • Jeff Gordon has just four top-ten finishes this season, including his sixth place finish at Michigan on Sunday.
  • Eleven different drivers have won the 15 Sprint Cup races in 2012. Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski have won twice each.
  • Michigan was the second straight week a driver broke a winless streak of greater than 100 races. Joe Gibbs' Racing's Joey Logano had not won in 104 races when he took the checkered flag at Pocono the weekend before last.
  • With 12 top-ten Sprint Cup finishes in 15 starts this season, the most of any driver, it was just a matter of time, i8t seemed, before Dale Earnhardt, Jr., finally broke through with a race win.
  • Dale Jr's victory at Michigan was the seventh win for a Chevrolet car this season and 20th win all-time at Michigan International Speedway.

Follow NASCAR and coverage and commentary on the Sprint Cup Series all season long at SB Nation Kansas City