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Bowyer Hoping His Plan Comes Together

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 25 2010

After a good finish at Bristol, Clint Bowyer thinks he is closing in on his second Chase berth. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Kansas City, Kan. – The plan is in place for Clint Bowyer. Both logic and history seem to indicate that it’s a solid plan. But, the plan concerns real-world automobile racing against 42 other people with plans of their own, so Bowyer also is more than just a bit aware of the “go awry” thing.

Bowyer, driver of the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, enters this off week in Sprint Cup as the series’ bubble boy – he is 12th in championship standings in a sport which allows 12 drivers into its playoffs.

And, thanks to a fourth-place finish last Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, Bowyer’s bubble is of fairly sturdy construction as he stretched a 35-point lead over Mark Martin, who had been his closest purser, to a 100-point lead over Jamie McMurray, who is 13th this week.

Bowyer seemed pretty upbeat that Tuesday as he picked away at a turkey sandwich in a Kansas City restaurant.

“One hundred is a lot better than 35,” he said, “I can promise you that. I got a lot better feeling about it. But there are still two races to go so anything can happen.”

So, two races left before the start of the Chase, and then 10 playoff races. Perfect, he said, for his plan.

It’s a plan that kicks off when racing resumes in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend and concludes when the season does at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 21. And when it does, it does with him as Sprint Cup champion.

Bowyer said that he hopes to pad his already semi-sturdy point position at Emory Healthcare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Thinks he can do it, too. For a couple of reasons.

First, he loves Atlanta. Calls it his favorite big track. Second, he’ll have some momentum going when he gets there. Third, those immediately behind him are behind him for a reason.

“The cars that we’ve raced against have been struggling,” Bowyer said. “When you look at the drivers behind me, Mark Martin (101 points back and 14th in the standings) is the obvious one we should be worried about but he’s struggled all year long. For whatever reason, they’re struggling. They’re behind right now.”

And McMurray, he said, “has been the guy who has won the two big races (the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400) but he has been hit or miss.”

So Bowyer, who is relaxing at his lake house this week with guest Kasey Kahne, has big confidence heading to Atlanta.

The hoped for good finish there would allow him to go to the Chase for the Chase finale at Richmond the week after in position to do something he has not been able to do for months – get aggressive.

Go-for-victory aggressive.

“I’m pretty confident we can go to Atlanta and have us a good run and then on to my favorite track in Richmond and be able to back that up,” he said. “I want to be able to put a little bit more pad in it (next) weekend in Atlanta and go into Richmond and not have to worry about it and go after a win.
That’s one of my best opportunities to win a race. I’d like to be in a situation where I don’t have to look over my should and be conservative when it comes down to time to gamble.”

Bowyer is still looking for the first victory of the year. His first victory, in fact, since he won at Richmond in the spring of 2008.

While the 31-year-old from Emporia, Kan. is not enjoying his sabbatical from Victory Lane ahd is certainly not happy about having to put on a late scramble to get into the Chase, he is buoyed by the fact that his team has been giving him cars fast enough to win races for most of the 2010 season.

He said the only thing keeping him from being a multi-time winner this year has been faulty decision making. By his team, by himself.

Not bad decision, he explained, just wrong decisions.

“We’ve had so many runs where we ran well,” Bowyer, who is admittedly still not quite there when it comes to communicating with crew and second-year crew chief Shane Wilson, said. “And then when the race shakes out at the end, the caution comes out and we haven’t put ourselves in the right situation to have a good finish and have a shot at the win.

“There have been three or four races where we’ve ran well enough, if we’d have made the right decision at the end of the race, we could have put ourselves in position to win the race. We just haven’t been able to do that.”

But, if the plan comes together, race victories will come and come at a time when it matters the most – the playoffs.

“Here recently, we’ve had to look over our shoulder and played a little bit (of a cautious) approach to everything. But I’m fairly confident that when we get in this Chase, we’re (going to be) the 12th seed and you don’t have anywhere to go but up.

“It’s a fun situation to be in because you don’t have any pressure. Nobody counts on you to do anything. The year we got in it (2007), we won our first race and ended up third in the points because you’re able to make all the gambles you can, take all the chances possible and go for it, you know? That’s a fun way to race.”

It was pointed out to Bowyer that the Chase could be really fun this year too, if he makes it because he already has top-10 finishes in 2010 at six of the 10 playoff tracks. He just smiled as he took another pick at the turkey sandwich.

“I really think you’ve got everybody competing at the same level and think it’s going to be the best Chase that they’ve had so far,” Bowyer said.

That’s the hope if not the plan, at least.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 25 2010
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