Bowyer gets caught up in excitement

Crash hurts his place in Chase, but he loves where NASCAR's going

May 13, 2011|By Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Clint Bowyer had a front-row seat for the fender-banging and postrace confrontation between teammate Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, both before and after he careened into the wall at the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Aside from the fact the crash denied him a top-five finish, Bowyer saw the positives in what's turning out to be NASCAR's version of the Saturday night fights.

Two weeks ago, Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman traded wrecks and words at Richmond, and after Saturday night's race, Harvick walked up to Busch's car and tried to throw a punch through the mesh window only to see Busch restart his car and ram Harvick's driverless car into the wall.

"It was a bummer for me," Bowyer said. "But it was pretty exciting. If I was a fan in the stands, I'd be pretty pumped up about what I saw.

"It all stems from good racing … a little bit of excitement, a little bit of emotion, a little bit of frustration. It's very competitive right now, the cars are so close … the times are so close."

Still, NASCAR, which encouraged the "Boys, have at it," policy last year, probably will impose some sanctions on Harvick and Busch for the postrace histrionics.

"Obviously, NASCAR has to keep that in check and not let it get too out of hand," Bowyer said. "We had a runaway car on pit road, and you can't have that kind of stuff … there are a lot of guys picking up their pit stalls … trying to get toVictory Lane. That's a dangerous situation.

"But that's what the fans have been asking for. Over the last couple of years, the fans have wanted to get back to the roots of what this sport was founded on, and you're starting to see it. It's been wild. Look at all the surprise winners … there have been a lot of wild and crazy things happening, and the fans are starting to come back and pack the houses."

Bowyer, who was running three-wide with Harvick and Busch, had nowhere to go but into the wall with five laps to go, and ended up 31st in the race, dropping him two places to ninth in the Chase standings. He had moved from 24th to seventh with five straight top-10 finishes, including back-to-back seconds at Texas and Talladega .

"We had a good car … again," Bowyer said. "We were going to have a solid finish … again. And I knew when that last caution came out, the opportunity for disaster became pretty good.

"Going down the back straightaway, they were beating and banging each other, and getting into three, I saw Kevin turn up there, and I knew he was going to retaliate and get into (Busch), and that was my opportunity to get away from them."

Staying in the thick of the Chase is crucial for Bowyer, who is in the last year of his contract with Richard Childress Racing.

He is now facing an important stretch of the season — at Dover, at Charlotte and at Kansas on June 5 — while continuing to seek sponsorship and negotiate a new contract.

"We're working on it," said Bowyer, whose No. 33 Chevrolet has been primarily sponsored by BB&T and Cheerios. "Obviously, it's a big part of what's going on, but I'm just focused on running well. We have a deadline we're trying to meet and trying to find sponsorship. It's hard to lock in the ones we have and renew with them, and we're waiting on some of that.

"I understand Richard's side of not being able to sign a huge contract with a driver without a sponsor. That's a huge gamble."

Bowyer's slow start this season didn't help matters.

"I was so involved in trying to get things turned around," Bowyer said, "and I know if you take care of business on the track, business will take care of itself.

"The good news is our cars are running well. We're not up in the points just because we've backed into some good finishes. We're running up front, we're leading laps … that's how you know things are going good . Another solid run at Darlington would have put us in pretty good comfort where I would have been satisfied and happy going into a couple of difficult tracks for me."

One of those tracks is Kansas Speedway, where he finished second in 2007 but just 15th last year. In addition to competing in the STP 400 Sprint Cup race June 5, Bowyer will also race for the first time in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 Camping World Truck Series race on June 4 at Kansas Speedway.

Bowyer has made just nine career starts in the trucks series, winning the fall race at Phoenix last year and the fall race at Texas in 2006.

He's made one start this season, winning the pole and finishing second at Phoenix for Kevin Harvick, Inc.

"I'm super excited about this," Bowyer said. "I've run well in those trucks, and to be able to win in front of the hometown crowd and celebrate in victory lane here would be great."

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