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Race Day: It’s Clint Bowyer Night At RIR

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 11 2010

Richmond International Raceway on early autumn nights is among the best scenes in racing. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Not that he’s crazy about it but Clint Bowyer will be the guy in the spotlight during tonight’s Air Guard 400 Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway.

Fans and several other teams will be focusing at least some of their attention on him as he is the driver who has the most to lose in the race and people tend to find that fascinating.

Bowyer is the bubble boy. He is 12th in points entering the last race before the start of the 12-driver, 10-race NASCAR playoff known as the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

His lead over 13th place is relatively comfortable – 117 points over Ryan Newman – but auto racing may be the least comfortable sport on the planet.

A mistake on his part, a mistake on the part of somebody near him, an equipment failure coupled with even a good finish by Newman and there could be a Bowyer bubble burst.

On Friday, Bowyer faced the media. Here are a couple of questions and answers from that:

Question: How have you kept your mind off the situation?

Bowyer: “Well, actually over probably the last four months, I’ve put off working on my dirt car for Kansas, so I am behind on it. I’ve been building a new body for it and getting it ready to go so I can be ready here at the end of the month or first of next month for Kansas Speedway. Looking forward to doing that. Just been at the shop working with the dirt guys and having fun. Last week was a very very important week for us. We struggled big time in the middle part of that race and we were able to get back up and get a top-10 finish. More importantly, put some more points in between them and us. That was a huge sigh of relief.”

Q: Can drivers really try harder in a race like this?

Bowyer: “You give it 100 percent. What happens is some teams can afford to take gambles; fuel mileage-wise, tire-wise, strategy-wise and that separates the race out. It really shakes things up. At the end of the races you are going to see guys keeping track position and doing whatever it takes to be up front to have that opportunity to win. Whereas, you normally may not see that when everything is riding on the line. At the end of the day, to answer your question, drivers can’t do anything. They better be giving it 100% and they are. If they are at this level in this sport, they give it 110 percent every time they are on the race track.”

Q: Your teammate, Kevin Harvick, said he may be as nervous as you are and does not want to get near you on the track for fear of doing something that may take you out. What do you think of that?

Bowyer: “Respect goes a long way in this sport. I feel like I respect drivers on the race track and in return, they respect me back. I appreciate that and I am proud of that. You know what I mean? The No. 39 (Newman) bounced off a few last week, I would say if someone is going to retaliate, it probably wouldn’t be on the No. 33 ball but it will be on the No. 39 ball. I’m looking forward to just having a good race. Like I said, I don’t want to lose focus on the task at hand; we are here to win the race. Don’t let me kid. That is what everybody is here to do. This is a fun, very important part of this sport, these short tracks in my opinion. This is an opportunity for me to run well.”

Fast facts

Race: Air Guard 400

Place: At Richmond International Raceway

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: ABC, 7 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Track layout: .75-mile oval

Race distance: 400 laps/300 miles

Estimated pit window: 105-110 laps

2009 winner: Denny Hamlin

2009 polesitter: Mark Martin

Tonight’s polesitter: Carl Edwards

Hope lives

Ryan Newman on his game plan for tonight.

“All I know is that I’m going to try my hardest; I don’t know what the math is.  I know we’re like 117 points, call it 118; I don’t know what all has to happen but I know that I’m just going to do my best, try my hardest and where we end up is where we end up.  Just like I said last week I can’t expect to make it up in two races, I can’t expect to make it up in one race, I try my best and if the math works and success happens so be it.  We’ll celebrate afterwards.”

Trivia time

More than one out of every five races held at Richmond International Raceway (22 of 108) have been won by the pole-winner. Who won the most Richmond races from the pole?

Track tidbits

Most victories: 13, Richard Petty

Most poles: 8, Bobby Allison and Richard Petty

Most lead changes: 25, twice (most recently in 1996)

Fewest lead changes: Zero, twice (most recently in 1959)

Most cautions: 15 (2003)

Fewest cautions: 1, three times (most recently in 1970)

Fewest drivers on lead lap: 1, 22 times (most recently in 1975)

Fewest running at finish: 1, (1953)

Closest margin of victory: .051 seconds (1998)

Largest margin of victory: 6.184 seconds (2002)

The Goose Egg Gang

Unless the situation changes tonight, five drivers will enter the Chase without having won a race this season. Those drivers are Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer.

Can a driver win the championship without getting at least one victory somewhere along the line in the Chase?

“Oh, yeah,” Gordon said. “Mathematically it’s possible; realistically I don’t. For maybe Jimmie (Johnson) or Denny (Hamlin) who have 50 points up on everybody else, I think it’s possible for them not to win races because they already have a big head start, or at least a decent-sized one. But I think for us, for the No. 24 team, I think we’re going to have to win.

“Like I said, I’m not giving up on it yet. We haven’t won yet this year. It’s not from a lack of effort. I think our team showed last week our put stops were awesome. We weren’t very good at the start of that race. We got ourselves really good. We had a set of tires that got us behind but I think we’re showing week in and week out that we’re very, very strong team. A few things go our way and what is it that makes that happen, other than putting fast race cars out there on the track and executing well? I still think we could have won three or four races up to this point, if not more already this season, and I can’t see why we can’t still win multiple races before this year is out.”

Trivia answer

Richard Petty won six races from the pole at Richmond.

Up next

The Chase begins next week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The race has been the first of the Chase since the playoff system was introduced in 2004. But this will be the last time the Chase will open in Loudon as NASCAR has moved that honor to Chicagoland Speedway next season. Mark Martin won last year’s Chase-opener at NHMS.

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

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 11 2010
One Comment

One Comment »

  • RCR Racing says:

    Much as I am glad about Clint making it into the top 12, Harvick’s slipping down two positions has been really disappointing. The RCR Racing team has been in the news the most this racing season. They sure know how to provide edge of the seat entertainment!