Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

For Clint Bowyer, Sonoma Raceway is a lot like Martinsville

Leave a comment

Clint Bowyer didn’t grow up road racing; he cut his teeth on dirt tracks in the Midwest. And yet, he had an immediate affinity for Sonoma Raceway. In his second start there, while driving for Richard Childress in 2007, he finished fourth.

In fact, Bowyer enters the Toyota/SaveMart 350 with seven top-five finishes in 12 starts that includes a runner-up finish in last year’s Sonoma race. If not for a couple of misfortunes (crash damage in 2010 and an electrical problem in 2016), he might well have swept the top 10 since scoring that first top five as a sophomore.

Perhaps the reason for that immediate success is that he considers Sonoma to be a twisted version of Martinsville Speedway – a track on which he won this March to snap a 190-race winless streak.

“I think you embrace this track and road racing in general just like you do Martinsville,” Bowyer said on Friday before heading out to put his No. 14 Ford at the top of the first practice speed chart. “Nobody shows up at Martinsville and goes to the top of the board and is fast and has success and navigates traffic to win that race right off the bat. It just doesn’t happen and it doesn’t happen here either.”

His Sonoma success has not translated to road courses in general, however.

Yes, Bowyer swept the top five on NASCAR’s two road courses last year, but the fifth-place finish he scored at Watkins Glen International was only the second of his career on a track that many drivers consider to be less technical than Sonoma. In 12 starts there, he has earned only five top 10s.

“Watkins Glen is so fast. It is just dive-bombs and you are really carrying a lot of speed at a place like Watkins Glen.

“Here, it is like that short track. It is like being at Martinsville. Did you see my car at the end of the race last year? It was destroyed. I drove up through and passed the field twice because of mistakes that we made and got spun out once. It was a wild race to be able to finish second. You can’t do that at Watkins Glen. That car wouldn’t have ran in the top 10 at Watkins Glen.”

Nine different drivers have won at Sonoma in the last nine races. Given the dominance of Harvick (who won last year) and Kyle Busch (the 2015 winner), many think they are the most likely to end that streak. But Bowyer also has an opportunity to end the streak of unique winners. He won the 2012 edition of this race by holding off Tony Stewart – the driver with the second-most road course wins in NASCAR history.

“You have to be able to have fun on this race track,” Bowyer said. “It is a challenge. Each and every corner is different. There is no perfect setup or perfect line. It is literally one of the only tracks you go to where you are out there racing and have a smile on your face. You might even get a chuckle.”

Tony Stewart, family of Kevin Ward Jr. reach settlement pending judge’s approval

AP Photo/John Bazemore
6 Comments

The attorneys for Tony Stewart and the family of Kevin Ward Jr. notified a judge Monday that they have a pending settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit the family brought against Stewart after the sprint car crash that killed Ward on Aug. 9, 2014.

Judge David Hurd of the Northern District of New York federal court has set an in-person settlement hearing for April 12 in the Utica, New York courtroom to place terms and conditions of the settlement on the record. 

UPDATE: Both sides filed a motion April 10th to have the hearing either canceled or postponed because they want to keep details of the agreement confidential and “which no further action by this Court is required.”

The pending settlement comes five weeks before the lawsuit, filed Aug. 7, 2015, is scheduled to go to trial.

Ward, 20, was racing Stewart in an Empire Super Sprints race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park when Ward spun into the wall. He climbed from the car during the caution and walked down the track and was struck by Stewart’s car.

Ward died from his injuries. Stewart, in a deposition Dec. 8, 2016, stated he “attempted to change direction” and that “it was a split second from the time that I saw a person until I got to the person.’’

A grand jury cleared Stewart of any criminal wrongdoing on Sept. 24, 2014. The district attorney revealed publicly after the grand jury’s decision that Ward was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident. 

Stewart, whose passion is sprint car racing, did not compete in another sprint car event after the accident until Feb. 10, 2017.

 and on Facebook

Kurt Busch’s No. 41 becomes first car revealed for this year’s throwback race at Darlington Raceway

Image: Stewart-Haas Racing
1 Comment

If Kurt Busch’s car in this year’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 throwback race at Darlington Raceway looks familiar, there’s a good reason for it.

Busch will drive a car with a paint scheme similar to the car he drove at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped track in the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400.

And what a race that was. Busch’s No. 97 Rubbermaid-sponsored red and gray Ford had a last-lap fender-banging battle with Ricky Craven’s No. 32 Cal Wells Racing Pontiac, which ended up 0.002 seconds ahead of Busch for the win.

Ironically, tomorrow, March 16, marks the 15th anniversary of what at the time was the closest finish in NASCAR history.

Busch’s Darlington black, red and gray throwback scheme – the first of all teams to be revealed for this year’s race – on his No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion, was first unveiled by NASCAR.com.

Busch has never won at Darlington. His 2003 runner-up finish has been his highest finish, though he’s also finished third in 2010 and in last year’s race.

This will be the fourth consecutive year for Darlington’s popular throwback weekend. This year’s theme is “seven decades of NASCAR” across the entire weekend from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2.

Stewart-Haas Racing has won the best throwback paint scheme the last two years (in voting at NASCAR.com), last year with Danica Patrick’s No. 10 car (a blue-and-white look that honored NASCAR Hall of Famer Robert Yates), and Tony Stewart’s car for his final race at Darlington in 2016 that honored Bobby Allison.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Stewart-Haas Racing won’t appeal No. 4 team’s penalty from Las Vegas

Leave a comment

Tony Stewart says that Stewart-Haas Racing will not appeal the penalty to Kevin Harvick’s team from last weekend’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“How many appeals have you seen overturned?’’ Stewart said after Harvick won Sunday at ISM Raceway for his third consecutive Cup win.

The team had to decide by Monday if to appeal the L1 penalties. NASCAR penalized the team for a failed window brace and side skirts being aluminum instead of steel.

NASCAR docked Harvick all seven playoff points he earned at Las Vegas for his victory and two stage wins, along with 20 driver points. NASCAR also fined crew chief Rodney Childers $50,000, suspended the team’s car chief two races and docked the team 20 owner points.

 and on Facebook

Bump & Run: Who should give command to start engines?

Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
3 Comments

Who is one person you’d like to see give the command for a race?

Nate Ryan: Cale Yarborough

Dustin Long: Dave Marcis. Ranks fourth in all-time Cup starts with 883 and won five times. He embodies the spirit of a racer. Let him get those engines fired one time. #BringBackDave 

Jerry Bonkowski: Tony Stewart in his own inimitable way.

Daniel McFadin: Since 2007, I’ve firmly believed actor Kevin James should be NASCAR’s designated command to start engines person. 

Who is someone not in the NASCAR Hall of Fame that should be in it?

Nate Ryan: Smokey Yunick. Mechanics and crew chiefs were underrepresented in the first few years of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. That mostly has been addressed since then (notably with Ray Evernham’s recent induction), but Yunick’s name has yet to appear on the ballot. He certainly is worthy of candidacy and should be enshrined some day

Dustin Long: Harold Brasington, founder of Darlington Raceway. He was a visionary who created NASCAR’s first big paved track nearly a decade before Daytona emerged and helped change the sport. That’s worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Jerry Bonkowski: Ricky Rudd. He was the longtime iron man of NASCAR, not to mention a winner of 23 races. He’s long overdue to be inducted.

Daniel McFadin: I’m going with two men that deserve to go into the Hall of Fame together: Bob Jenkins and Dr. Jerry Punch. The election of Ken Squier has set the precedent for media members being selected. While Squier was the voice and narrator for a certain generation of NASCAR fans, Jenkins and Punch were more active and omnipresent with their ESPN and ABC coverage from the early ’80s to 2000. Outside the Daytona 500, Coke 600 and races on TNN, if you’re watching a highlight of a NASCAR race from that period, it’s likely being announced and reported on by Jenkins and Punch. Jenkins was even present in NASCAR video games in the late ’90s. For my generation, he was the voice of NASCAR in our formative years.

Who are you most worried about three races into the season?

Nate Ryan: Driving on a one-year deal and needing to produce results quickly, two crashes in three races is a tough start for Kurt Busch. Even though his teammate finished 15th at Las Vegas, AJ Allmendinger’s JTG Daugherty Racing ride has seemed well off the pace since a 10th in the Daytona 500.

Dustin Long: Clint Bowyer. Although it’s early and he’s 11th in points, he’s talked about he and the team needing to be consistent. Haven’t seen it yet. For him to match the success of teammate Kevin Harvick and be a contender to win races, that consistency needs to start happening.

Jerry Bonkowski: How can you not be worried about Jimmie Johnson, who is sitting in 29th place? Sure, he finished 12th at Las Vegas, but he needs a win — or at least a top-five — in the worst way.

Daniel McFadin: Any Chevrolet driver not named Kyle Larson. He was the only Chevy driver to finish in the top 10 in Las Vegas and one of three to finish in the top 15 at Atlanta. Like Toyota teams early last year, Chevy teams seem to be struggling to figure out the new Camaro body so far. Unless you’re the No. 42 team, which is keeping the same pace it had in Homestead in November.

Kyle Larson finished no worse than second in each race of last year’s West Coast swing and he started this tour with a third-place finish. How likely is he to score another top-five finish on West Coast swing.

Nate Ryan: The odds are good. He qualifies so well at Phoenix, and Fontana suits his style superbly.

Dustin Long: Count on it.

Jerry Bonkowski: He loves Phoenix and Fontana. Not only do I see him getting top fives at both places, he’s a good candidate to win both races, as well.

Daniel McFadin: Larson has won the last four races at 2-mile speedways and should be the favorite to win next week at Auto Club Speedway.