MWR drivers complete top-10 sweep
April 21, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Michael Waltrip Racing drivers Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Mark Martin may have taken different paths, but by day’s end each had arrived at pretty much the same place -- inside the top 10.
Truex Jr. battled back from a tire violation early in the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway to finish fourth. Bowyer, running in front of the home crowd, was steady all day en route to a fifth-place ending. And Martin, who seemed to have his hands full on a number of occasions, made a strong push in the closing laps to garner a ninth-place result.
It was the first time all three finished in the top 10 since last October at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Truex Jr., second a week earlier at Texas Motor Speedway, led two times for 46 laps, racing his way back into contention after a tire violation during an early pit stop sent the No. 56 Toyota from third to the rear of the field.
His seventh career runner-up finish had generated a lot of attention and a lot of questions in light of his obvious disappointment. A top-five, on the other hand, was seen in a much more positive light. Chalk it up to circumstances and overcoming obstacles to carve out an impressive run the following week.
“Of course I was (disappointed),” Truex Jr. said of the result at Texas, moments after trailing race winner Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson across the start/finish line in Kansas. “Today is the complete opposite. (I’m) very happy and excited about a fourth-place finish.
“It was a great day; we overcame a lot and the guys did a great job bouncing back after that pit road problem … and we had a great race car.”
Bowyer, in the midst of an up-and-down start to the season that has seen him finish inside the top 15 five times and 15th or worse on three occasions, said the result was all about “momentum.”
“We needed a turnaround after last week,” he said. “Certainly you want to win it at home, but a good top-five finish is a great way to get things bounced back.”
Eight cautions slowed the pace of the race, and nearly every driver described the racing conditions on the 1.5-mile track as treacherous.
“It was slick, especially on the restarts,” Bowyer said. “It’s just a product of these repaves. This race track, these hard tires -- you’ve got your hands full. I’m telling you, a couple times I about got turned around and I know a lot of people did. It’s just the nature of the beast.”
Martin agreed, adding, “It was as wild behind the wheel as I’m sure it looked on TV.”
Trying to work his way back inside the top 10 through 87 laps of the 267-lap race, Martin’s No. 55 Toyota broke loose and slid up out of the racing groove. Although he was able to reel the car back in, the slip dropped him from 14th to 31st.
Two cautions later on a Lap 115-restart, Martin got into the back of Jamie McMurray -- the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver lost multiple spots while Martin was able to soldier on.
Crew chief Rodney Childers’ continued call for changes began to pay off during the second half of the race, leaving Martin to wrestle his way to a top-10 result.
“Rodney just did a great job on the pit box adjusting the car,” Martin said. “We missed it pretty good (early) but our best run of the day was on the last run of the day. That’s the way you do it.”
Childers said an issue during the previous day’s final practice put the team behind. “But we had plan going into the race,” he said. “We knew what we were going to fight.
“Everybody did a good job executing that plan. We just had one run that got us back there where we didn’t want to be. Then the caution fell, I thought that was going to work out and then that didn’t. Had to be pretty brave there at the end and make a call, cut it pretty close on fuel.
“I’m just proud it worked out for everybody, especially with having the Boston Marathon (decals) on the cars and all three MWR cars in the top 10. That was pretty special.”
In honor of those killed and injured in last week’s bombing, the numbers adorning the sides of each of the three MWR entries were decaled to resemble the numbered “bibs” used by runners.
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