By Amanda Vincent, NASCAR Correspondent
- Kurt Busch takes 1st career road course win
- Jeff Gordon, Edwards take 2nd & 3rd
- Stewart & Vickers play bumper cars
Kurt Busch turns left and right to first NASCAR Sprint Cup win of season
After a dominating performance in his No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge, Kurt Busch drove into victory lane following the Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on Sunday to claim his first win of the season and his first-ever victory on a road course.
“It was an unbelievable setup,” Busch said in victory lane. “That was an awesome handling Dodge.”
Jeff Gordon, after running deep in the field and dealing with an ill-handling No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet much of the day, made his way toward the front in the late laps to finish second.
“We really missed the setup at the beginning of the race,” Gordon said.
Gordon then complimented his team on its work to make the car better throughout the latter stages of the race.
Carl Edwards was third in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
After having the fastest car in practice on Friday, Busch struggled on his qualifying lap to start Sunday’s race in the 11th position. It didn’t take him long to make it to the front, though, as he took the lead from Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on lap 13 and set sail for the rest of the race.
Both Penske teams -- Busch’s No. 22 and the No. 2 Dodge team of Brad Keselowski -- decided early on to turn the event into a two-stop race. Five cautions throughout the race nullified the advantage of making one less stop than the rest of the field, but Busch’s car was so dominant that it didn’t matter.
Even with the late-race caution, the No. 22 team stuck to its plan to run the race on two stops.
“We just had to conserve our tires,” Busch said.
I probably had it coming, because I dumped him first.
Hamlin captured the lead early and after losing the top spot to Busch, proved himself to be Busch’s tightest competition throughout the early stages of the race until Hamlin pitted during the third caution of the race that came out for debris on lap 47. As a result of several cars staying out, Hamlin restarted near the back of the top-20. He gradually made his way back into the top-10 and was running ninth when he took his car to the garage to repair a track bar mount, taking him out of contention for the win.
The final caution of the race came out on lap 87 when Brian Vickers, in a move of retaliation for contact earlier in the race, used his No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyota to move Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, sending the rear end of Stewart’s car up on top of a tire safety barrier.
“I probably had it coming, because I dumped him first,” Stewart said. “But I dumped him, because he blocked me. I’m not going to tolerate it.”
Several cars came down pit road during that last caution, but 14 cars, including the No. 22 and the No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota of Martin Truex Jr., stayed out. As a result, Busch and Truex restarted in the front two spots.
New tires were much faster than old ones on Sunday, but with so many cars staying out, Busch and Truex looked to have enough of a buffer between themselves and those on new tires to not have to worry about their old ones for the remainder of the race.
“We just had to conserve our tires.
After the final restart with 19 laps to go, Truex ran off the race track and lost several positions. With Busch driving away from the rest of the field, a tight battle ensued for the second spot. After Truex’s snafu, Kasey Kahne quickly assumed the runner-up spot with his No. 4 Red Bull Racing Toyota, but then soon lost the spot to Edwards. Edwards held the second position until losing it in the closing laps to Gordon.
Late race contact with Juan Montoya in the No. 42 Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing Chevrolet sent Kahne back through the field and into a 20th-place finish.
Clint Bowyer finished fourth in the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top-five in the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford.