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Bowyer’s Car, Back Put Against Wall At Bristol

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, August 28 2009
Clint Bowyer may not be signing autographs at this year's year-end banquet. His inclusion in Chase took a blow at Bristol.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clint Bowyer may not be signing autographs at this year's season-end banquet. His inclusion in Chase took a blow at Bristol. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Kansas City, Kan. – It’s a rare weekend off in the Sprint Cup series, and Clint Bowyer’s big hope had been that he would play a little golf in his charity tournament back home in Kansas, have a stress-free beer or two with old buds and mentally prep for his third-straight Chase appearance.

Hope has sprung a leak. The beer will be served with a chaser of frustration, the mental preparation will be on overcoming suddenly fading Chase hopes and perhaps having to use the final 10 races of the year as a test session for 2010.

At least he’s getting to play some golf this weekend.

Bowyer wasn’t bummed as he nibbled away at a chicken sandwich (with cheese) during lunch on Tuesday. There was no face-in-hands, how-could-this-happen-to-me? stuff going on between picks at his pile of fries.

Just an unmistakable air of: here is the next challenge, lets meet it.

“Of course you’ve got a chance,” Bowyer said when asked about a month’s worth of on-track improvement being Bristolized late in Sunday’s Sharpie 500, “but it’s just unfortunate.”

Too bad the trip back to Kansas was not last week.

Last week at this time, Bowyer and his Richard Childress Racing team were holding hands with good fortune.

The early-summer doldrums appeared to be over. They had top-five finishes heading to Bristol Motor Speedway in four of their previous five races. Bowyer, 150 points out of the 12th and final Chase berth following an 18th-place finish at the Brickyard, arrived in Bristol just 58 points out.

Those, however, are just numbers. The real, tactile proof of rising success were the cars that Childress was putting Bowyer under. They were fast and very competitive with the people he was chasing for the Chase.

One of those cars was under Bowyer at Bristol. Unfortunately, a couple cars which were not as competitive or as fast or as carefully driven, had a mitigating affect.

One of those cars belonged to his teammate, Kevin Harvick. Harvick hit Bowyer from behind and knocked him clear into uncertainty.

Bowyer said Tuesday that he had not talked to Harvick – who issued a curt “sorry” on his radio after the wreck – since the Bristol, and just kind of waved off a question about anger toward his teammate.

But Bowyer is clearly not thrilled with the position he now finds himself before the actions of others knocked him from 14th to 15th in points, and from 58 to 112 back of 12th place with just two races to go before the Chase.

“We had a lot of momentum going, a lot of things going our way, the cars are running a lot better and we were just doing what we need to do,” Bowyer said.

“I was so looking forward to getting Michigan out of the way. That’s the one I was worried about. Looking at Bristol and Atlanta and at Richmond, those are three of our best race tracks. Three of my best race tracks. I was looking forward to getting after it.

“We’re doing what we need to do, we’re just running out of time.”

Bowyer does have two of his best tracks remaining in Atlanta and Richmond. And, he has not been mathematically removed from Chase contention.

But he is now in that horribly uncomfortable position of having to have things go wrong with several other teams in front of him while he and his team have be almost perfect the next two races.

And if none of that comes through? Keep searching for speed with an eye toward next season.

“If it doesn’t happen, we’ve got to focus on making our program better, winning races and getting ready,” Bowyer said. “I knew going in this team is going to take time to jell. We found ourselves a little farther behind than we initially thought, but we’re working well together, we’re on the same page. I like the direction that our team’s going. If it doesn’t happen this year, we’re going to have to regroup and make it happen next year.”

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, August 28 2009
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