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, Calif. 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.
Only Busch damaged his car 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.
Tony Stewart passed Busch on the final lap to claim second. Busch finished third. Brian Vickers was fourth, followed by Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.
Fernando Alonso of Ferrari won the European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain, to become the first driver to win two races this season, while Michael Schumacher earned his first podium since returning to Formula One by coming in third.
Alonso jousted his way up from 11th on the starting grid on Valencia’s 3.3-mile street circuit notoriously tough for overtaking. Pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull stalled on the track midway through the race.
Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus finished second, while Schumacher reached the podium after Lewis Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado collided on the penultimate lap as they fought for third place.
Two-time champion Alonso moved into first place in the points standings with this 29th career win.