By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
SONOMA, Calif. -- Clint Bowyer is living proof that NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers read each other's press clippings.
Scarcely had Marcos Ambrose left the interview room Friday at Sonoma Raceway when Bowyer, during his own interview session, jokingly took issue with one of Ambrose's comments.
"If you look down the sheet of people who can win, there's at least 20 drivers that could win," Ambrose said, talking about the competitiveness of Sunday's Toyota Save Mart 350. "Would you have put Clint Bowyer on that list last year when he went around here?
"Probably not, so it could be even thicker than that. It could be thirty-odd drivers that have a chance to win."
Bowyer, who had three fourth-place finishes in six starts before winning at Sonoma last year, countered by citing Ambrose's miscue in 2010, when the Australian driver shut off his engine under caution while leading, trying to save fuel, and couldn't get the car re-fired in time to keep up with the pace car.
"I read (Marcos) Ambrose's quote -- that was kind of mean," Bowyer quipped. "Who would have thought he'd have shut his car off leading and not win the race with a dominant day. So, bam -- make sure you post that quote right back at you, Ambrose."
Bowyer, however, didn't hesitate to express his admiration for Ambrose's well-documented ability on road courses.
"He is amazing," Bowyer said. "To watch him, last year I remember, his car was terrible and he had that thing hung out driving absolute daylights out of it. And you see that and you're like, 'Man, I hope (he doesn't) ever get that thing pointed in the right direction and rolling good, because he's going to be a handful.'
"And he usually is, and I think he will be this year."
In fact, Ambrose qualified second for Sunday's race during time times on Saturday. Bowyer will start fifth.
COOL BOX GETS HOT
Toward the end of his first qualifying lap on Saturday, Martin Truex Jr. was distracted by smoke within the cockpit of his No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.
"Something burned up in the race car," Truex said, after the car was pushed to the garage. "The last few turns of the lap, I definitely screwed up, because I had smoke flying, and it smelled really bad, and I was like, 'Oh, no, what's going on here?'
"So my concentration was kind of messed up. I think we're going to be OK. It looks like it was just part of the wiring harness for the cool box (the air conditioning unit that cools the driver), which we didn't even use (Saturday), but we'll use it (Sunday). So hopefully it's not a big deal."
Despite the electrical fire, Truex completed a lap that was good enough to earn the 14th starting position for Sunday's race.
FIRST TIME'S THE CHARM
Carl Edwards thought the new group-based qualifying format for road courses in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series might give him a mulligan if he made a mistake in his first qualifying lap.
Wrong. As it turned out, Edwards had just one chance to post his best lap -- and made the most of it.
"The qualifying format was supposed to be easier on the drivers, because we were supposed to get a couple of laps," Edwards said after earning the third stating spot for Sunday's race. "But my crew chief (Jimmy Fennig) went ahead and taped the grille off and said that we'd just get one lap, so I was really happy with the lap.
"I made a couple of little mistakes. I think I could have done better, but, still, it's the best position I've had starting here, and to be anywhere near (second-place starter) Marcos Ambrose in qualifying at a road course is an honor for me."