Bowyer, Cheerios Racing Team Win First Race in the Chase LOUDON, N.H. -- Much like he did in 2007, Clint Bowyer won the first race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This time, he took the No. 33 ...
Bowyer, Cheerios Racing Team Win First Race in the Chase
LOUDON, N.H. -- Much like he did in 2007, Clint Bowyer won the first race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This time, he took the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet team to Victory Lane in the Sylvania 300, marking the first time a General Mills-sponsored car has visited the Winner Circle since entering NASCAR's top touring series 14 years ago.
The victory catapulted Bowyer & Company 10 spots, to second, in the NASCAR championship point standings, 35 markers outside of Denny Hamlin in first.
The Shane Wilson-led team kicked off the weekend by posting the 20th-fastest speed in Friday's opening practice session. Later that afternoon, Bowyer toured the 1.058-mile oval in 29.538 seconds, a mere 0.023 seconds off of the pole, lining up the yellow, red and black colored No. 33 machine second for Sunday's 300-lap event. On Saturday, the No. 33 team found the speed they were looking for in race trim as they posted the fifth- and sixth-fastest speeds, respectively, in the final two practice sessions of the weekend.
Approximately 95,000 race fans packed the grandstands at the Loudon, N.H., facility as the green flag waved shortly after 1 p.m. local time on Sunday. Bowyer faded as far back as fifth by lap four, but as his tire pressures began to rise, he started recording some of the fastest lap times of any other competitor on the race track. Following a lap-25 caution, Bowyer restarted second and gained the lead for the first time on lap 31. He lost the lead on lap 43, but quickly retook possession of the point on lap 45.
The Emporia, Kan., native led for the next 53 circuits before pitting for four tires, fuel and a small chassis adjustment, under green flag conditions, on lap 97. Once the field cycled through the pit stops, on lap 103, Bowyer remained the leader. He held the lead for 104 of the next 105 laps. He hit pit road twice during this time, including his final stop of the afternoon on lap 208, under the event's fourth caution period.
Once racing resumed, Bowyer lost the lead on lap 213. By this point, it became clear that the carburetor on the No. 33 Cheerios Racing machine was not functioning properly on the restarts. Bowyer was unable to run as fast as the rest of the leaders as he restarted second on lap 219 and faded to fourth 15 laps later.
Over the next 26 circuits, the 31-year-old RCR driver raced between the second and fourth positions. Although he regained the second-place spot on lap 264, he was told by his crew chief to save fuel in fear of not making it to the end of the race.
As the laps ticked away, Bowyer tried to conserve as much fuel as possible. Then, on lap 299, leader Tony Stewart ran out of fuel coming to the white flag. Bowyer took the lead as he crossed the stripe and was able to stretch his fuel one more lap to record his third-career NSCS victory.
Bowyer was chased to the line by Hamlin and Jaime McMurray. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and RCR stablemate Kevin Harvick rounded out the rest of the top-five finishers. Bowyer's other RCR teammate Jeff Burton ran out of fuel in the closing laps and coasted his way to a 15th-place finish.
Next weekend, NASCAR's senior tour will head to Dover, Del., for the second event in the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
CLINT BOWYER: "This reminds me a lot of 2007. You know, two weeks ago, going into Richmond, you're feeling the confidence level in our race team, in our equipment level, and everything was good. Shane (Wilson-crew chief) built a brand new race car and we came here, unloaded fast right off the truck, and everybody had pep in their step. The entire Cheerios/Hamburger Helper team had fun today. When I'm having fun, I'm always performing at my best, and I think it showed this weekend.
"We overcame some adversity and a few guys beat us on those restarts. I really thought I could run Tony Stewart back down, but Shane came on (the radio) and told me I needed to start saving fuel. I knew in the back of my mind I needed to do that, but it's hard to run somebody down and save fuel at the same time.
"I'm just thrilled for General Mills, Cheerios and Hamburger Helper. Fourteen years in this sport and to finally win a race for them, we're very proud to have them as a sponsor and very proud of their support. I have to thank BB&T and The Hartford for all that they do as well. "
SHANE WILSON: "This just feels good. We've had a lot of races where we've performed good enough to win the first two thirds of the race, so I'm glad today to kind of finish one out. Circumstances allowed us to win this one, but we were fast all day and lost it a little bit there in the middle in the last run. I'm just proud of all the No. 33 guys that worked through it. We are still a pretty new team and we are some 50 odd races into this deal as a group working together. They work hard and do what I ask them to do and just want to give them a lot of credit.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: "I'm just proud of everyone at RCR. The Cheerios/Hamburger Helper team just did a phenomenal job. Clint had a great car and Shane made the right call to stay out and conserve fuel at the end. I knew it was going to be close. As soon as Clint got into second place, that's when we started telling him to slow down -- between (spotter) Mike Dillon telling him, me telling him and Shane telling him. He did a great job saving fuel right there at the end. I think we had a really strong car, it all worked out and we won the race."