Bowyer snaps 190-race losing streak with Martinsville win
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) — When snow at Martinsville Speedway gave NASCAR a rare day off, Clint Bowyer loaded his car with kids and drove them to North Carolina for a day at the Hall of Fame.
As Bowyer returned to the track for Monday’s rescheduled race, he told his 3-year-old son he wanted to take a picture in victory lane with the boy.
Cash Bowyer told his father he wanted a checkered flag.
Both father and son got their wish.
Bowyer snapped a 190-race losing streak dating to 2012 with a dominating victory at Martinsville Speedway. Monday’s win continued the strong start to the NASCAR season for Stewart-Haas Racing, which has won four of the first six races to start the year.
“For whatever reason, it felt right driving up here. It’s such a cool place to be able to drive up through the countryside on a two-lane road and think about the race,” Bowyer said. “I told (Cash) this morning, I was like, ‘Dammit, we’ve got to get our picture in victory lane.’ He told me he wanted a checkered flag.
“He’s really proud of that checkered flag!” Clint Bowyer said as the toddler waived the flag, and then leaned his head on his father’s shoulder.
Bowyer then went into the stands to greet the fans who returned to Martinsville two days after a snowstorm pushed all track activity to Monday.
Bowyer’s victory was his first driving for SHR, the team he joined as Tony Stewart’s replacement last year. The move to SHR was supposed to turn Bowyer’s fortunes around, but his struggles continued through his first year in the No. 14 Ford.
He finally figured it out on the short track in Virginia and won for the first time since his victory at Charlotte in October 2012.
Bowyer had led just 145 combined laps the last four years and bettered that Monday with 215 laps led and his first career Martinsville victory.
It was the ninth career victory for Bowyer, but first since he was a legitimate title contender in 2012 before the bottom fell out. He was snared in a cheating scandal with Michael Waltrip Racing, that team never recovered and folded, and Bowyer has been trying to find his footing since.
He thanked Gene Haas and Stewart for bringing him to SHR.
“To give this old dog a fresh chance and fresh blood with a new opportunity — finally to get the 14 in victory lane is just a weight off the shoulders,” Bowyer said. “It’s been a long time. You start to question if you can get it done or not.”
Bowyer began his celebratory burnout before he completed a cool-down lap, and then climbed on the hood of his cars with his arms raised in victory. He jumped into the arms of his SHR crew, and then was met by his son, who had never before seen his father win a Cup race.
Cash Bowyer exchanged high-fives with the SHR crew then sat on top of the winning car. Later, in victory lane, Clint Bowyer hugged the Martinsville signature trophy grandfather clock, chugged several beers, and let his son soak in his first post-race celebration.
Bowyer is the first driver to notch victories driving a Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford.
Now the Kansas native, a die-hard Jayhawks fan, goes into NASCAR’s off weekend ready to party his victory and KU’s spot in the Final Four.
Kyle Busch finished second in a Toyota, and Ryan Blaney, who led 145 laps and won the second stage, was third in a Ford.
Martin Truex Jr., the defending series champion and winner last week in California, was fourth in a Toyota. Bowyer teammate Kevin Harvick, winner of three races this season, was fifth and followed by Joey Logano in another Ford.
Alex Bowman was seventh and AJ Allmendinger eighth in the highest finishes for Chevrolet drivers.
Busch was frustrated after his third runner-up finish of the season.
“I mean, we take solace, sure, but you know, ultimately we’re here to win each and every week,” Busch said. “I know everybody is, but we’ve been that close each and every week, so we’re right there, we’re knocking on the door. We’re trying. I wouldn’t say it’s one particular thing that we can pinpoint, we’ve just been beat by somebody kind of hitting it a little bit more than we have.”
NASCAR is off for Easter and the Cup Series returns to action April 8 at Texas Motor Speedway. Jimmie Johnson won last year at Texas and then made it two straight the next week with a victory at Bristol. Johnson goes into the break stuck in a career-worst 29-race losing streak.
NASCAR Monster Energy
STP 500 Results
At Martinsville Speedway
Lap length: 0.526 miles
Starting position in parentheses
1. (9) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 500 laps.
2. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 500.
3. (5) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 500.
4. (1) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 500.
5. (8) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 500.
6. (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 500.
7. (16) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 500.
8. (25) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 500.
9. (21) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 500.
10. (4) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 500.
11. (11) Kurt Busch, Ford, 500.
12. (6) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 500.
13. (15) Paul Menard, Ford, 500.
14. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 500.
15. (18) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 499.
16. (7) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 499.
17. (13) Erik Jones, Toyota, 497.
18. (23) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 497.
19. (14) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 497.
20. (20) William Byron, Chevrolet, 497.
21. (24) Michael McDowell, Ford, 497.
22. (32) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 496.
23. (22) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 496.
24. (29) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 496.
25. (28) David Ragan, Ford, 495.
26. (26) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 495.
27. (35) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 493.
28. (37) DJ Kennington, Toyota, 493.
29. (33) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 493.
30. (12) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 493.
31. (38) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, 493.
32. (31) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 488.
33. (27) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 486.
34. (19) Darrell Wallace Jr., Chevrolet, 486.
35. (30) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, 482.
36. (34) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 481.
37. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 481.
38. (36) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, rear gear, 211.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 81.663 mph.
Time of Race: 3 hours, 13 minutes, 14 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 1.146 seconds.
Caution Flags: 4 for 33 laps.
Lead Changes: 11 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: M. Truex Jr. 1-4; Kyle Busch 5-26; D. Hamlin 27-51; Kyle Busch 52; D. Hamlin 53-135; B. Keselowski 136; R. Blaney 137-142; D. Hamlin 143-145; R. Blaney 146-284; C. Bowyer 285-385; Kyle Busch 386; C. Bowyer 387-500.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): C. Bowyer 2 times for 215 laps; R. Blaney 2 times for 145 laps; D. Hamlin 3 times for 111 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 24 laps; M. Truex Jr. 1 time for 4 laps; B. Keselowski 1 time for 1 lap.