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Jerry Markland | Getty Images

Surprise strategy gives Bowyer first stage win of season

RELATED: Results | Season stage points totals

LONG POND, Pa. — When every car running ahead of Clint Bowyer came to pit road on Lap 96 – in a group that included race winner Kyle Busch, runner-up Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Chase Elliott — Bowyer inherited the lead.

Four laps later, Bowyer collected his first stage win and first playoff point of the season.

But that wasn’t the highlight of Bowyer’s day. Forced to pit under caution at the end of the stage, Bowyer restarted 11th and never advanced higher than fifth during the final 60 laps of the race. He finished sixth, after Brad Keselowski passed him for the fifth position in the closing laps.

Bowyer, who is fighting for a spot in NASCAR’s playoff, was pleased with the speed in his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

“It was a big pit strategy day, for sure, and you know that going into a race like this,” Bowyer said. “Our car was good all weekend. We unloaded a fast car. This is the best car that we’ve unloaded in quite some time.

“A little bit different build. Hopefully, this is what we’re looking for, what I’m looking for and (we can) build on this.”

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