Clint Bowyer didn’t even try to hide his excitement at finally winning a NASCAR race in his home state, especially after coming so close twice before.
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”We’ve had some good runs here, but we haven’t been able to seal the deal,” Bowyer said after dominating Saturday’s trucks race at Kansas Speedway. ”So to finally be able to do a burnout in the homestretch in front of this crowd, this is big. This track means a lot to me, I watched this place being built and dreamed of being able to race here in anything, so to be able to roll into victory lane is pretty cool.”
Bowyer, who grew up 90 miles away in Emporia, had finished second at Kansas once in Sprint Cup competition and once in the Nationwide series. But on Saturday, he dominated throughout and snapped Kyle Busch’s winning streak at three races.
He started second and quickly took control, leading 142 laps of the 167-lap, 250-mile race on the 1.5-mile tri-oval. A late caution forced a restart with 30 laps to go, but Bowyer easily pulled ahead of Johnny Sauter and cruised unchallenged to his third career trucks win and first this season.
”I thought we had the truck to beat going into the race today,” Sauter said. ”We led for a little bit, but I think Clint was just being patient. He by far had the dominant truck.”
Sauter finished second, followed in the top 10 by Todd Bodine, James Buescher, Joey Coulter, Busch, Brendan Gaughan, rookie Nelson Piquet Jr., Brad Sweet and Travis Kvapil.
”We had a horrible truck all day,” Busch said. ”Just was fighting real, real tight. Couldn’t get it to where it needed to be.”
Bowyer is the first Kansas native to win here and the 11th winner in 11 truck races at the track, and his victory came in the series’ 400th race.
Sauter took over the points lead, moving 12 ahead of rookie Cole Whitt. Whitt stayed in the middle of the pack for most of the day, starting 16th and finishing 15th.
Austin Dillon, who started on the pole, fell off the pace early and was penalized twice, once for coming out of pit road too fast and once for entering too fast. He finished 12th.
Four-time series champion Ron Hornaday, who entered fifth in the standings, blew his left rear tire and hit the wall 17 laps in. He was able to re-enter the race but finished 30th, 66 laps down, and slipped one spot to sixth.
Bowyer, meanwhile, will try to become the second racer to sweep a weekend at Kansas Speedway. Joe Nemechek did it in 2004, winning Nationwide and Cup races on consecutive days.
Bowyer will have to move up significantly to challenge for a win, however. He starts 27th in Sunday’s race.
”Tomorrow is going to be a handful. It’s going to be a bear,” said Bowyer. ”I want to win a Cup race here bad.”