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Lap-by-Lap: Sonoma

June 29, 2012, ,

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Lap 112 -- CHECKERED FLAG: Tony Stewart takes second place from Kurt Busch. Martin Truex Jr. spins. Clint Bowyer scoots away from it all to claim the victory!

Lap 111 -- GREEN FLAG: Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers are the top five on the restart. Hold on to your hats! Bowyer clears for the lead off Turn 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashes back in the pack, but there's no caution. Aric Almirola and Regan Smith are also involved.

Lap 109 -- The race will end with an attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.

Lap 108 -- Kurt Busch's crew chief reports that something has broken in the rear of his car.

Lap 107 -- Tony Stewart's tires a lot fresher than either of the front two. This is going to be very interesting!

Lap 106 -- YELLOW FLAG: Kyle Busch, Juan Montoya and Paul Menard spin. Oh, here we go!

Lap 104 -- Kurt Busch is losing touch with Clint Bowyer. He's now down about two seconds.

Lap 103 -- Brian Vickers is looking for a way to get past Jimmie Johnson for fourth place.

Lap 102 -- Clint Bowyer has picked up a couple of car lengths over Kurt Busch. It's 4.5 seconds back to third-place Jimmie Johnson ... make that Tony Stewart, who takes the position coming to the starter's stand.

Lap 101 -- Same story up front. It's close between Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch. Very, very close.

Lap 100 -- Ten laps to go. Kurt Busch is still ... right ... there. He gives leader Clint Bowyer another shot in Turn 11.

Lap 99 -- It's interesting to note that Kurt Busch didn't practice here Saturday, because he ran the Nationwide Series race at Road America.

Lap 98 -- Clint Bowyer still has a mirror full of Kurt Busch.

Lap 97 -- Kurt Busch has caught Clint Bowyer for the lead. Busch lays a bumper to Bowyer going through Turn 11.

Lap 95 -- The top five are Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Brian Vickers and Tony Stewart. Fifteen laps to go.

Lap 94 -- Denny Hamlin spins in Turn 11, but there's no caution. He got turned by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano.

Lap 93 -- Tony Stewart has joined the battle for fourth between Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch. The spot belongs to Vickers for the time being.

Lap 92 -- Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch are fighting for fourth place at the top of the hill in Turn 2.

Lap 91 -- There's about half a second between leaders Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch, but it's 2.9 seconds from Bowyer back to third-place Jimmie Johnson.

Lap 90 -- Twenty laps to go.

Lap 89 -- Tony Stewart's car has some damage on the left rear bumper. Clint Bowyer has opened up a lead of about 8/10ths of a second over Kurt Busch.

Lap 88 -- Kurt Busch is still close to Clint Bowyer ... all it's going to take will be a slip here or there by Bowyer to open the door. Jamie McMurray spins, but there's no caution.

Lap 87 -- GREEN FLAG: Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are the leaders on the restart. Bowyer is clear of Busch going into the first turn, but Busch presses him hard for most of the lap.

Lap 85 -- Remember ... cautions have a way of breeding cautions!

Lap 84 -- Brian Vickers, Tony Stewart, Marcos Ambrose, AJ Allmendinger, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and a few others are piting.

Lap 82 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 1: Tomy Drissi has crashed. Clint Bowyer's lead had gone from 2.7 seconds to just 1 second just before the caution.

Lap 79 -- Clint Bowyer had a cushion of about 2.7 seconds over second-place Kurt Busch, but he's giving up a lot of it trying to put a lap on Kevin Harvick.

Lap 77 -- Let's see ... let's see. When WAS the last caution-free race at the Sprint Cup level? Talladega, back in 2002, maybe?

Lap 76 -- Following the stops, the top five are Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.

Lap 75 -- Martin Truex Jr. gives up the point to pit. That hands the lead over the Clint Bowyer.

Lap 73 -- Jeff Gordon finally makes it to his pit stall, and while entering the pits, Kasey Kahne has to check up behind him.

Lap 72 -- Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and others are on pit road. Jeff Gordon is out of gas and struggling to get to pit road.

Lap 71 -- Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, AJ Allmendinger and others are pitting.

Lap 70 -- Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are pitting.

Lap 69 -- Travis Kvapil has spun off the track, but it's still not enough to bring out the caution. Carl Edwards is on pit road.

Lap 68 -- Expect pit stops in just a few laps.

Lap 67 -- Jeff Gordon trails third-place Jimmie Johnson by only a car length or two. He takes the spot in Turn 11.

Lap 65 -- Clint Bowyer's lead over Kurt Busch is about 4.1 seconds.

Lap 63 -- Juan Montoya is on pit road.

Lap 58 -- Matt Kenseth has just one top-10 finish here at Sonoma, so chances are that he would be happy with a ninth-place finish. That's where he's running now. Kurt Busch wrestles second place away from Jimmie Johnson in Turn 11.

Lap 56 -- Kurt Busch is in third place. Remember ... he won here last season.

Lap 55 -- Crossed flags. The race has reached the halfway point.

Lap 53 -- Pole sitter and early leader Marcos Ambrose is back in 10th place, 28.9 seconds behind first-place Clint Bowyer.

Lap 52 -- Clint Bowyer's advantage over second-place Jimmie Johnson stands at 4.5 seconds.

Lap 51 -- Following the stops by the out-of-sequence Martin Truex Jr. and AJ Allmendinger, the top five are Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon.

Lap 50 -- AJ Allmendinger is pitting.

Lap 49 -- Move Clint Bowyer to the top of the leaderboard after Martin Truex Jr. hits pit road.

Lap 48 -- This is the longest a race at Sonoma has ever gone at the start without a caution.

Lap 47 -- Clint Bowyer is running about 2.3 seconds behind leader Martin Truex Jr.

Lap 46 -- Martin Truex Jr.'s best finish here at Sonoma is an eighth. It's his only top-10 showing at this track.

Lap 43 -- The top-five drivers -- Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon -- are separated by 12.4 seconds on the race track.

Lap 42 -- Josh Wise gets off the track, but he's able to continue without bringing out a caution.

Lap 40 -- Martin Truex Jr.'s lead over Clint Bowyer stands at about 6.6 seconds.

Lap 37 -- After the cycle of stops, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, AJ Allmendinger, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch are the top five. Truex and Allmendinger much earlier, so they're working a different plan.

Lap 36 -- Kurt Busch brings his unsponsored car to the pits.

Lap 35 -- Clint Bowyer gives up the lead to pit. Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr. and others are on pit road.

Lap 34 -- Juan Montoya, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Marcos Ambrose are pitting.

Lap 31 -- Kyle Busch gets around Jeff Gordon for fourth place.

Lap 30 -- Carl Edwards is on pit road. Clint Bowyer's lead over Jimmie Johnson stands about 3.3 seconds.

Lap 29 -- Kurt Busch takes third from Jeff Gordon, who has now led more than 23,000 laps during his Cup career. Amazing.

Lap 28 -- Jimmie Johnson has passed Jeff Gordon for second place.

Lap 26 -- Clint Bowyer takes over the lead with a move under Jeff Gordon in Turn 11.

Lap 25 -- Juan Montoya has lost his tachometer, which will make it hard to gauge his pit-road speed and shifting points on the track.

Lap 24 -- Martin Truex Jr.'s team is also working the strategy angle. He's on pit road. Clint Bowyer is on Jeff Gordon's rear bumper, looking for a way to wrestle away the top spot.

Lap 22 -- Jeff Gordon's lead over Clint Bowyer stands at about 2.3 seconds. It's 3.7 seconds back to third-place Jimmie Johnson.

Lap 20 -- Brad Keselowski is running well behind the rest of the pack, in 10th place. AJ Allmendinger is pitting in a strategy move.

Lap 19 -- Clint Bowyer drops Jimmie Johnson back to third place. Ryan Newman spins in Turn 11, but there's no caution.

Lap 18 -- Kyle Busch zips past Marcos Ambrose for fifth place on the frontstretch. So far, so good on the engine problems that have plagued Busch the last few races.

Lap 16 -- Marcos Ambrose continues to slide back through the top five as Martin Truex Jr. goes past for fifth place. Hang on, mate. Hang on.

Lap 15 -- Jeff Gordon has a lead of about 1.3 seconds over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson.

Lap 14 -- Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer drop Marcos Ambrose back to fourth place.

Lap 13 -- Marcos Ambrose says that the handling is going away on his car. Jimmie Johnson has closed the gap, and should be challenging Ambrose for second place any time now.

Lap 12 -- Clint Bowyer has moved up to fourth place, just in front of his teammate Martin Truex Jr. Marcos Ambrose locks his brakes up going into Turn 7, allowing Jeff Gordon to sneak past for the lead.

Lap 11 -- Jeff Gordon has closed to within just 3/10ths of a second of leader Marcos Ambrose.

Lap 7 -- Marcos Ambrose has picked up a couple of tenths of a second over Jeff Gordon. His cushion is now about 9/10ths of a second.

Lap 6 -- The top five are Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. Hey ... wasn't it just last year that Gordon and Truex had a little tiff here in Sonoma?

Lap 5 -- Jeff Gordon's deficit behind leader Marcos Ambrose remains steady at about 7/10ths of a second.

Lap 4 -- Matt Kenseth has been looking to get around Kurt Busch for eighth place, but he's not pressing the issue yet. He's being very ... well ... Matt Kenseth-like at the moment.

Lap 3 -- Marcos Ambrose has a few car lengths on second-place Jeff Gordon. They're in the backstretch esses right now.

Lap 2 -- The first 20 cars or more have sorted themselves out single file. They WON'T stay that way for long!

Lap 1 -- GREEN FLAG: The race goes green at 3:21 p.m. ET. Marcos Ambrose is easily clear of Jeff Gordon for the lead going into Turn 1. Travis Kvapil's left-front tire appears to be locked up.

3:17 p.m. ET -- At the starter's stand, it'll be one lap to go before the green flag. The field is in Turn 11 now.

3:11 p.m. ET -- The field has rolled off pit road, and is now heading up the hill toward Turn 2.

3:10 p.m. ET -- The drivers are ready to participate. We're just minutes from the green flag!

3:07 p.m. ET -- Tony LaRussa and Toby Appleton, a Toyota Military Hero, give the command to fire engines.

3:02 p.m. ET -- The flyover is done by two T-38s from the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron from Beale Air Force Base. C'mon ... somebody. Hook a brother up!

3:01 p.m. ET -- The University of California Straw Hat Band is playing the national anthem ... and, yes, they're all wearing straw hats!

3 p.m. ET -- The colors are presented by the Travis Air Force Base Honor Guard. Track minister Tim Boeve is giving the invocation.

2:57 p.m. ET -- Former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa is serving as the grand marshal here in Sonoma.

2:53 p.m. ET -- The invocation and national anthem will be preceded with the Pledge of Allegiance led by Travis Claeys, a future Eagle Scout with Sonoma Troop 16.

2:34 p.m. ET -- TNT is doing a great "NASCAR Generations" segment on the art of the apology. Hard to imagine a legend like Junior Johnson or Lee Petty apologizing for anything!

2:24 p.m. ET -- Thirty-five minutes until the start of the invocation and national anthem.

8:41 a.m. ET -- Marcos Ambrose's lap at an average speed of 95.262 mph during qualifying was good enough to put him on the pole for the second week in a row. Jeff Gordon was just a shade slower, and will start second. Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle and Martin Truex Jr. are third through fifth. Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman round out the top 10.