Toyota/Save Mart 350 Review: Surprises at Sonoma

Clint Bowyer surprised fans when he qualified in sixth position for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma. With the overall strength that Michael Waltrip Racing has shown in 2012, it wasn’t much of a surprise to the world when the No. 15 5 Hour Energy Toyota crossed the finish line first on Sunday. Like most races at Sonoma, fuel mileage was an issue in the closing laps when the race finished under green-white-checkered. Bowyer did run out of fuel – on his victory lap.

[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”317″][/media-credit]“It’s all about surrounding yourself with good people and we certainly have that. We have great partners, 5-hour ENERGY, Napa and Aaron’s, my teammates, Martin Truex and Mark Martin, I’m telling you, everybody is working very, very good together with this group.

That’s something I’ve never been able to do before. I’ve had good teammates and I’ve had good stuff, but never like this at this magnitude. This is a young group. Michael stuck it out and I’m telling you, he’s fixing to reap the benefits. He’s worked hard. Our marketing department does a great job and this is I think the first of many to come. To have this dirt boy from Kansas in victory lane at this road course is big, trust me. “

American Muscle

This is Bowyer’s first win for MWR and his first win of the season. With this victory, he has rocketed two spots in the standings to 7th position, 67 points behind the leader. If the 15 team were to drop out of the Top 10 in points standings, they now have the opportunity to take the wild-card position to be in the chase for the Sprint Cup.


Smoke Rebounds at Sonoma

Tony Stewart started Sonoma off on a rocky note with practice session speeds of 24th, 17th, and 21st position. The two time winner of this track qualified in 24th position and rebounded to finish in second position. With this finish Smoke shot up three spots in points, to fifth position, just 63 points behind the leader.

“I was really pleased with it to be honest. The last two days we have not been real happy with our balance and just couldn’t seem to get the speed that a lot of the guys that were putting up big numbers at the top of the board were able to run. We couldn’t even run within a second of them the last two days.

To end up running second like this is just a really good effort for all of our guys. Really proud of Steve Addington, never gave up this weekend. Nobody ever gave up on trying to find something that was going to be a little bit better. So him and Jeff Meendering and Greg Zipadelli and all of these guys on the team, just really proud of the effort they put forward this weekend.”


Underdogs Fill the Top-10

Brian Vickers, who is running a partial schedule with MWR, qualified his No. 55 Toyota in 21st position. His team fought hard to get to the front of the field, and came home with a fourth place finish. Vickers has two other starts this season, with finishes of 5th and 18th position. The former Red Bull driver is using this part-time gig to try and show other teams what he is capable of; so far, Vickers impresses the field with his finishes.

Marcos Ambrose pleasantly surprised the NASCAR world once again we he qualified his Stanley Ford on the pole for the second week in a row. Although the “thunder from down under” couldn’t contend for the win, he was able to hold on to a strong eighth place finish. Ambrose has four top-10 finishes this season and is sitting 16th in points standings. If he were to grab a win before the Chase for the Sprint Cup, he could hold a coveted wild card, allowing him to contend for the championship.

AJ Allmendinger is another driver who didn’t qualify well at Sonoma, starting in the 17th position. However, by the end of the race, he was racing the front runners and finished in 9th position. Moving to Penske this season, expectations have been high for the No. 22 Pennzoil driver. This season Allmendinger has scored two top-10 finishes and one top-5.

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