News & Media


Bowyer needs to make something happen, soon

September 02, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

So far been unable to capitalize and get off Chase bubble; Atlanta looms large

HAMPTON, Ga. -- With two races remaining before the Chase field is set, Clint Bowyer is 22 points behind Tony Stewart. In football parlance, Bowyer knows he's close to having to face fourth-and-long with no time left on the clock.

"[Time for a] Hail Mary," Bowyer said Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "You drop back and go for it. We're going to have to race hard. We're going to have to turn things around. We're going to have to have another opportunity like we did last week but this time, we're going to have to capitalize on it."

"Obviously, the pressure cooker is heating up pretty big time. We've got two races left to get ourselves in."

--CLINT BOWYER

With Stewart struggling the entire weekend at Bristol, Bowyer realizes he missed a golden opportunity, one that may not present itself in Sunday night's AdvoCare 500 or next week at Richmond International Raceway.

Stewart started 42nd at Bristol and finished 28th. But Bowyer had problems of his own and wound up 26th.

"That was the most frustrating thing I've ever had in my life," Bowyer said. "We literally had an opportunity right there in front of us for the taking, and we couldn't take advantage of it. We were as bad as he was, if not worse. It's so frustrating as a racer and a competitor."

Team owner Richard Childress marshaled the forces at the shop Sunday afternoon to express his feelings, a get-together that Bowyer didn't attend but heard "it wasn't the most fun meetings you'd want to be in."

Childress' point, according to Bowyer, was to make sure the No. 33 Chevrolet team spent less time dwelling on the failures of the past and more focus on the future.

"Man, I tell you right now, with two races to go, it doesn't matter what happened last week," Bowyer said. "It matters what's going to happen this week and the week after that. That's the only thing that matters. That's in the past."

It's also trying to grab any positive momentum when a team is scuffling like Bowyer's is now.

"When you're running bad, a crew chief or an engineer, they don't have any confidence in what they're working on because it hasn't been working," Bowyer said. "The path they're going down, they start to second-guess themselves and they don't have any direction. They don't have the confidence and the momentum of running well.

"They're struggling as much with it as anybody. And as you start to get on a roll, you go down the path where you seem like you can't do anything wrong. It makes those decisions that much easier on everybody's part."

In Friday's twilight practice session at AMS, Bowyer was quicker than Stewart in qualifying trim but the two cars were very similar in race setups. Bowyer was third-quickest overall, with a best lap of 185.016 mph, 11 positions better than Stewart, whose fastest lap was 183.515 mph. However, both drivers ran laps around 181 mph earlier in the session.

* Speeds: Practice 1

Denny Hamlin scuffed the wall midway through the session but it didn't seem to slow his No. 11 Toyota much, as only Brad Keselowski was quicker. Hamlin's crew buffed out the scrapes and Hamlin returned to the track to run several more laps. There were no other incidents.

To his credit, Bowyer has made up two points on Stewart in the past two races. However, that's a pace not nearly good enough to get Bowyer into the top 10. Bowyer knows he needs to make something good happen at Atlanta in order to take advantage of his recent success at Richmond.

"Obviously, the pressure cooker is heating up pretty big time," Bowyer said. "We've got two races left to get ourselves in. The thing is, we ran terrible [at Bristol] -- one of the worst races we've had -- and we didn't lose anything. We actually gained a point.

"Richmond's a really good track for us. I'm looking forward to rolling in there with a chance -- and a decent chance. If I can narrow the gap, cut it in half, I feel like we can go into Richmond and get the job done."