Pedley: Bowyer Finds Peace In Last Place
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Concord, N.C. – Watching the procession of Chase drivers rotate in and out of press conferences at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week, one would have to wonder if a berth in the playoffs is a prize or a penalty.
Moods ranged from distracted to surly as the drivers fielded questions about point deficits, race strategies, mindsets and prospects for keeping Jimmie Johnson from winning a fifth straight championship.
Then there was Clint Bowyer. He was all but whistling show tunes as he marched up the the dais in the media center.
“I’m happy,” were of two of the first words out of his mouth and his tone and attitude did little to contradict those words.
Last place in the Chase, flogged to death by a NASCAR-issued penalty, rebuked with extreme prejudice by appellate boards and panelists and branded a cheater by some in the media and grandstands and he’s happy?
More like delighted.
After what happened to the small-town boy from Kansas the first couple weeks of the Chase, there was only one way for things to go for him. And now things are going that direction in a hurry.
Bowyer arrived in Charlotte with the savory taste of an ultra satisfying runner-up finish at Auto Club Speedway still coating the taste buds.
It was a second-place showing that was very nearly a victory, and it was also a statement and a half – the statement being: I don’t need a cheated up car to contend for Sprint Cup victories.
“Running well last week put a lot of things to bed,” he said.
Those things, of course, were the effects of the 150 point penalty levied upon him two days after winning the Chase-opening race. They were things that led to lousy finishes at Dover and his home track in Kansas.
“We’ve been haywire ever since that whole thing happened,” Bowyer said. “We haven’t been in it, had two terrible races in a row and I was just very, very excited about the way we ran (in Fontana).
“To get some of the naysayers and just the doubt in our minds and everybody else’s minds put to bed. I really did feel like we needed to win that race, and we do need to win a race. We need to do that for ourselves, for our race team, and just to set the record straight. We’re still running up front, we’re still capable of running up front.”
Bowyer got his big finish in California with his regular crew chief – Shane Wilson – serving his four-race suspension.
Up on the box in Wilson’s seat was Scott Miller, competition director at Richard Childress Racing.
Great move, moving him to interim crew chief, Bowyer, getting more upbeat by the moment, said.
“He’s just a perfect fit there,” Bowyer said. “Actually, after the race on my way home I was thinking we could use this as an opportunity to better ourselves for when Shane and I get back together. Sometimes a change opens your eyes and trips that trigger a little bit, but there are some things that he does different that we could do better at, and some things that we do good at and we need to realize those things and realize your strong points and fix the weak points. I think that these next few weeks could be a positive for us.”
Bowyer has not been great at Charlotte. His average finish here is 17th.
But he did finished second and lead 29 laps at the high-banked, 1.5-mile D-shaped oval three years ago and he was seventh here earlier this year.
In his uplifted mood – he actually emailed congratulations to Tony Stewart, the guy who beat him last week – he’s thinking about that rather than lousy finishes and penalties this weekend.
“We’re still running up front,” Bowyer said. “We had a good race here in the spring and I look to do that again here.”
And if not, well, he’ll concentrate in being a team player.
“Well, certainly I want to be the best teammate I can be,” Bowyer said. “I wanted that championship to come home to RCR. I don’t care. Obviously you want it to be you, but obviously it’s looking like that is not going to happen so Kevin’s (Harvick) our best shot and Jeff’s (Burton) not out of the thing by any means and our cars are capable of getting the job done.”
With that, it was a jaunty bound from the dais, up the aisle toward the exit and que the show tunes.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgNo Comment