Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bowyer's gritty win tops off a sparkling day

Sonoma, California – OK, seriously, how many of you had Clint Bowyer winning today’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 before the race began?

I’m guessing that group wouldn’t add up to proper dinner party, but that’s what the road course here will produce when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series comes to town.

Frankly, it was a good race.  Very few cautions, and surprisingly, very little craziness in the turns.  There was a ton of hard, close racing.

And the race featured the usual series of unusual on-track events that make the Sonoma race an annual crapshoot.

Go figure Marcos Ambrose.  One of the very best road racers around, he starts on the pole … and early in the race it’s apparent that his car set-up amounts to a huge swing and a miss.  He dropped like rock through whipped cream, pretty much out of the mix before the halfway point.

Jeff Gordon had, arguably, the best car at the track.  But he too suffered on-track performance mishaps, and then, incredibly, he sees all hope go out the window by running out of gas at the most crucial time to put himself in position to win.

The drive of the race was put in by Tony Stewart, coming from way back to follow Bowyer across the line for second.  Stewart’s car looked life a refugee from a demolition derby junkyard, but even late in the race, he was pulling off incredible inside dives, holding the line and making passes even as smoke poured off his Goodyears.  A seriously remarkable effort.

Ditto for Clint Bowyer.  With 20 laps to go, I thought he was toast.  Yet under gut-turning pressure, he held his line through the turns time and time again, no doubt frustrating pursuer Kurt Busch, who also deserves credit for not taking a couple opportunities to punt Bowyer off the track.

Bowyer’s gritty, gutsy win ranks as one of the most memorable seen here.  I certainly won’t forget it.

Jimmie Johnson turned in yet another top five, and even through no road courses will be part of the season-ending chase for the series championship, Johnson is showing the consistency that won him five consecutive series titles.

With Johnson’s team showing its strength, Stewart flashing the brilliance that carried him to the series title last year and a host of very talented drivers likely to make the chase for Sprint Cup, NASCAR fans can look forward to what likely will be a hugely competitive run to the finish line in November.

That’s a show to look forward to for the rest of the summer and into the fall.

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