Clint Bowyer heard the questions all week and on Sunday, the sophomore driver came up with the answer. Bowyer, the only driver to make his way into the Chase for the Championship without a win, enjoyed a dominant day and won the Sylvania 300 at...
Clint Bowyer heard the questions all week and on Sunday, the sophomore driver came up with the answer.
Bowyer, the only driver to make his way into the Chase for the Championship without a win, enjoyed a dominant day and won the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway from the pole.
It was Bowyer's first trip to victory lane in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series and should finally put to rest questions about whether he deserved to be in the Chase.
"I knew we could get it," said Bowyer, a three-time winner in the Busch Series. "Hopefully it proves that we earned a spot here and that we're here for a reason. I'm just so happy to be a part of this Chase. It's such a neat deal."
Bowyer admitted that he was desperate in the closing laps to claim his first career win.
"I'm not going to kid you, I was about to throw up for the last 30 laps," said Bowyer, who led a career-high 221 laps. "I was starting to feel a vibration in the corners. I don't know what it was. You hear every rattle, squeak and bang in that thing. I was watching up ahead and hoping and praying that nobody crashed. Thankfully the caution didn't come and we kept it out front."
Bowyer paced the field for the first 68 laps until losing the lead under caution after Ward Burton spun to bring out the yellow flag. He followed Tony Stewart for 39 laps before grabbing the lead back. Bowyer took the lead for the sixth and final time on lap 253 and finished as the first of seven Chasers at the front of the field.
"It's unbelievable," said Bowyer, whose previous best finish here in three tries was a 24th place run last September. "The Jack Daniels Chevrolet was fast. I'm just so proud of these guys."
Bowyer jumped up to fourth place in the standings after grabbing bonus points for the win and leading the most laps. He trails Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, who are tied at the top of the standings, by 15 points.
Gordon finished second in his 500th career start. Gordon started his career at the season finale in 1992 and hasn't missed a race in the 15 seasons since then. He started 18th on Sunday and worked his way to the front of the field for his second straight second place finish here.
"That was a great team effort," said Gordon, who just missed the win here in July when Denny Hamlin beat him to the finish line on the final lap. "I thought the car was really good. To come from 18th was not easy. That was a great way to start this 10 race stretch for the Nextel Cup. I'm excited. I hope this is a sign of more things to come for this race team."
Stewart started sixth but grabbed the lead from Bowyer when he took two tires under caution on lap 69. Bowyer had four fresh tires and grabbed the lead back 39 laps later while Stewart hung on for his third top-four finish in the past four races.
"I'm pretty happy with a third place run here today," said the two-time series champion. "We were much better than we were when we were here in July. It's a fun Chase already."
Kyle Busch started 12th and struggled with his set-up early in the race. After making changes to the car, Busch jumped up and took the lead under caution at lap 166. He spent the rest of the day near the front of the field and finished fourth.
"It started off pretty slow for us," said Busch, who led 21 laps and jumped up to fifth place in the standings. "It was a work in progress for us all day trying to get the thing better. Other guys started off the race better than we did, but we were able to prevail."
Martin Truex Jr. started on the outside of the front row but slipped back for a fifth place finish.
"It was a good day," said Truex, who is looking forward to returning to Dover next week after claiming his first career win there in June "We were hoping to stay up (at the front), but we were just way too tight at the start of the race. It took us a while to get that out of the car to where it would turn good. We didn't get it to where I liked it until the last run, but by then we had lost too much ground on the leaders."
Jimmie Johnson started fourth and finished sixth to hold a share of the points lead while
Matt Kenseth quickly jumped into the top 10 after starting 30th. He finished seventh. Casey Mears, Ryan Newman and J.J. Yeley rounded out the top 10.
Carl Edwards finished 12th in a remarkable run in a backup car. Edwards wrecked his primary car before qualifying on Friday and after yesterday's practice session was rained out, he started the race with just two qualifying laps under his belt.
"It wasn't a terrible day," said Edwards, who came into the Chase with four top-10 finishes in five races. "We'll just lick our wounds and go on to Dover."
Hamlin started 14th and worked his way into the top-10 briefly before finishing 15th.
"I just couldn't pass," said Hamlin, who dropped down to ninth in the standings. "Unless a guy makes a mistake or your car is superior to the guy in front of you, I think everyone agrees, you just can't pass with these cars.
Kevin Harvick started eighth but lost a lap when he was forced to pit under green with a flat right front tire on lap 134. He caught a break when the caution came out shortly after all of the other cars cycled through their green flag stops but had another flat tire later in the race and finished 17th.
"Today could have been a disaster," said Harvick, who has just one top-10 finish in the past seven races. "Clint is a great friend and to see him in victory lane is great for him and great for our company. It's something that he'll never forget. It was a lot of fun to see."
Chaser Jeff Burton, who has a track-high four wins here, started 23rd and finished 18th while Kurt Busch started third and dropped back to ninth in the first 100 laps before a carburetor problem dropped him off of the lead lap.
"We survived," said Busch, who limped to a 25th place finish and dropped to 12th in the standings. "It could have been worse with what was going wrong with the engine. We had a good car. It could have been worse."
Brian Vickers finished 43rd and 35 laps down, but he was running at the end, marking the first time in modern NASCAR history that all 43 cars were running at the end of an event.