Bowyer, No. 33 Team Finish 31st at Infineon SONOMA, Calif. -- Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet team were looking to score their fourth consecutive top-10 finish at Infineon Raceway in Sunday's Save Mart 350, but ...
Bowyer, No. 33 Team Finish 31st at Infineon
SONOMA, Calif. -- Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet team were looking to score their fourth consecutive top-10 finish at Infineon Raceway in Sunday's Save Mart 350, but late-race contact dropped them to the rear of the field and resulted in a 31st-place finish.
Although the less-than-desired result drops Bowyer & Company to 14th in the point standings, 74 markers outside 12th place, they still have 10 races remaining to lock themselves into the 12-man Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The Shane Wilson-led team began the weekend by posting the second-fastest speed in Friday's opening practice session. Later that afternoon, Bowyer was hoping to match his practice speed in qualifying, but a slight mistake on the exit of turn seven resulted in the loss of time and a 22nd-place starting spot for Sunday's race. The No. 33 team struggled to find the speed they had the previous day as they posted the 19th- and 18th-fasest speeds, respectively, in Saturday's duel practice sessions. However, they left the 1.99-mile road course that afternoon confident in their set up for the next day's 110-lap race.
Sunday's event was one of ups and downs for the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper team. At the drop of the green flag, Bowyer picked off five positions early and was running 16th on lap 11 when the No. 43 machine made contact with the 31-year old driver on the exit of turn eight, sending the No. 33 Impala spinning off course. Bowyer was able to get his machine restarted as the yellow flag was displayed. The Helping Hand pit crew jumped into action one lap later to change tires, add fuel and fix the damage caused from the accident. As a result, Bowyer would restart 41st on lap 13.
Racing remained under green-flag conditions for the next 44 circuits and during this time, Bowyer picked off positions one-by-one and began climbing the scoring pylon. Aiding his advancement through the field was the fact the No. 33 team was on a different fuel strategy. Bowyer was able to stay out on the track longer than the other competitors before making his stop on lap 38, while scored second. Once pit stops cycled through, Bowyer was 24th and continued gaining ground.
The event's second yellow flag was displayed on lap 57, with the No. 33 Chevrolet shown in the 14th position. After a lightning-fast pit stop, Bowyer returned to the track 17th, as several competitors elected to stay out, for the lap 66 restart. The field was slowed once again one lap later for a multi-car accident at the start/finish line, resulting in a 21 minute and 18 second red flag period.
Once racing resumed, Bowyer continued to prove he had a strong RCR-prepared Chevrolet as he broke into the top 10 on lap 72. He continued gaining positions as green-flag pit stops ensued, eventually leading lap 80 and earning five crucial bonus points. Bowyer hit pit road for service one lap later and returned to the track 19th.
The event's fifth caution flag waved on lap 85. Several drivers came down pit lane for fuel and tires, while Bowyer, with only one lap on his tires, stayed out and restarted 13th on lap 87. Bowyer regained a top-10 position one lap later and began racing his way towards the front. He climbed to seventh on lap 99 when the No. 33's day took a turn for the worse.
Upon entering 11, the Nos. 24 and 19 cars made contact behind Bowyer. The No. 19 machine clipped the right-rear quarter panel of the Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, sending both cars spinning. By the time Bowyer spun the car in the right direction, he had fallen back to 34th place. Wilson guided his driver to pit road one lap later for tires and fuel, hoping a caution would fall to help regain positions at the end of the event.
The event's yellow flag was displayed on lap 102, allowing the No. 33 team to stay out and gain positions as other competitors pitted. With five laps remaining, Bowyer restarted 26th. Although he gained three positions in two laps, all was lost as a broken rear part and blown rear tire slowed his pace, resulting in a 31st-place finish.
Jimmie Johnson scored his first career road course win and fourth victory of the 2010 season. Robby Gordon, Bowyer's RCR teammate Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five finishes. Bowyer's other RCR stable mate, Jeff Burton, finished 27th, after being caught up in a late-race accident.
Next weekend, NASCAR's senior circuit heads northeast to Loudon, N.H.
CLINT BOWYER: "It seemed like we had played our cards right and were in contention for another top 10 here at Infineon. Everyone on the Cheerios/Hamburger Helper team did a great job today, but the craziness at the end of the race hurt us in the points today. We'll stay focused as we prepare to have a strong run at New Hampshire."