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Kansas City-Area Cup Drivers Want In On The Fun

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, October 3 2014

Clint Bowyer would love to join the Royals and Chiefs as autumn's Heartland heroes. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Clint Bowyer stands ready and willing to take the baton pass from the Chiefs and Royals in this, the best week in professional sports that this area has experienced in decades.

But able?

Actually, he just might be. When his Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota’s are running this fall, they’re running well.

For those not focused on sports in the Heartland, the last week of September and the first week of October have been pinch-me good.

The NFL team has suddenly looked terrific. The Chiefs have beaten the Dolphins and Patriots in their last two games and did so in impressive fashion.

Kansas City’s Major League Baseball team, the Royals, have ended almost three decades of buffoonery by making the American League playoffs and then winning their Wild Card game against the Oakland A’s, and then winning the first game of their first round playoff against the Angels. Both wins came in dramatic, extra-inning fashion.

Which brings things around to Bowyer.

NASCAR is in town this weekend and Bowyer, a native of Emporia, Kan., would love to do his part for Missouri/Kansas pro-sports pride.

“Look at the storyline that Kansas City has had this week,” Bowyer said Friday at Kansas Speedway, site of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400. “If somehow a Kansas City driver could win this race that would be unbelievable.”

MoKan has three drivers in Sprint Cup these days: Bowyer and Missouri natives Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray. None have ever won a race at Kansas Speedway.

All are driving well these days.

Edwards drove his way into the Cup playoffs in September and then advanced to the second “Contender” round, which begins at Kansas on Sunday.

McMurray had logged top-12 finishes in five straight races until suffering a 22nd-place setback last weekend at Dover.

And Bowyer has ran near the front the past four races – though a wreck spoiled his feel-good finish streak at Chicagoland Speedway three weeks ago.

In 12 previous starts at the 1.5-mile Kansas oval, Bowyer has two top-five finishes and an average finish of 14th.

And he has a very high level of desire to keep the Heartland roll rolling.

“With the Chiefs winning on Monday night – they pulled (Tom) Brady out of the game it was so bad,” he said Friday. “The Royals – I was so pissed because I was watching the Royals and I was bummed out, I’ve got this kid coming and she’s (Lorra Bowyer, wife) getting tired and I’m tired he’s being a little grouchy and isn’t ready to come out yet so I’m like, ‘Well damn, I think the Royals are done.’

“I shut the TV off and we get up at like 4:00 AM and everything is going crazy and I don’t even know why, but I glance up at the TV and the news is going on and the Royals won. I’m like, ‘Honey, you ain’t going to believe this, but the Royals won.’ Now we’re arguing about the Royals winning and they’re carting her out the door and I’m like, this is crazy. That’s just what the Kansas City area does and being a fans of sports, what a week they’ve had right here in Kansas City.”

Edwards says he’s not quite as big of a Kansas City stick-and-ball as Bowyer. But he also says he would love to see a MoKan driver win on Sunday at Kansas Speedway. Just not the same driver as Bowyer wants to see win.

“A win here would be so special,” Edwards, who grew up and went to college in Columbia, Mo., said. “It (Kansas Speedway) a really special place.”

So special, that it drove Edwards into one of history’s top Chase memories.

It came in 2008 when, heading into the final turn on the final lap and sitting in second place, Edwards executed a banzai move by blowing past leader Jimmie Johnson and purposely slamming his car into the outside wall. The hope was he could right the car, keep up the momentum and hit the finish line first.

After all, it worked on his video game. It didn’t work in reality as he finished second.

He said Friday that the move was, in retrospect, ill-advised.

But, Edwards said, “That’s how bad I wanted to win here.”

“Looking back that was probably a stupid move. We were racing for a championship and I intentionally ran the thing into the wall. I just want to win here. If I can see the lead and there is a chance to get the win here we are going to go get it. I guarantee you the last run if we have a shot to win I won’t be thinking about points or anything like that – which I probably should be – but this place is just special.”

Edwards has better Kansas Speedway numbers than does Bowyer – he has five top-five finishes in 14 starts, and an average finishing position of 11th. But, then again, Edwards, who has two wins this season, has not had a top-10 finish in over a month.

But, this is MoKan and sports miracles have been falling like the leaves of Heartland hardwoods this fall.

He might want to give the banzai one more shot if the opportunity arises on Sunday afternoon.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, October 3 2014
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