When Clint Bowyer won last year's NASCAR race at Sonoma Raceway it was considered a surprise by many because he wasn't exactly known for his prowess on road courses.
But using deft driving and superb pit strategy Bowyer won the Toyota/Save Mart 350 over Tony Stewart. In doing so, he became the eighth different driver in as many years to win at Sonoma, highlighting just how wide-open road course racing has become in Sprint Cup.
It was when discussing this competitiveness noted road racer Marcos Ambrose unwittingly may have taken a jab at Bowyer Friday.
"I think the level of competition continues to get stronger in NASCAR," Ambrose said. "If you look down the sheet of people who can win, there's at least 20 drivers who could win. 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."
The always affable Bowyer responded with his own barb when his press conference began shortly thereafter. He pointed out a mistake Ambrose made at Sonoma in 2010, when while leading under caution he shut off his engine and was subsequently penalized by NASCAR for not maintaining pace.
"I read Ambrose's quote -- that was kinda mean," Bowyer said. "Who would have thought he would have shut his car off leading and not win the race with a dominant (car)? So bam, make sure you post that quote right back there for Ambrose."
All joking aside, Bowyer offered Ambrose high praise by saying he's one of the best road course drivers in the garage and the guy everyone else measures themselves up against.
"He is amazing to watch," Bowyer said. "I remember last year, his car was terrible and he had that thing hung out driving the absolute daylights out of it. You see that and I'm like, ‘Man, I hope you don't ever get that thing pointed in the right direction and rolling good because he is going to be a handful.' He usually is good and he will be this year."
Not surprisingly, Ambrose and Bowyer were also among the quickest drivers in opening practice. Ambrose clocked-in the fastest lap around the 12-turn, 1.99-mile course, while Bowyer was eighth on the speed chart.