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Chase is a laughing matter for Bowyer

September 15, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

Clint Bowyer says the speed the Michael Waltrip Racing cars have is bringing confidence and momentum to the program. (Getty Images)

JOLIET, Ill. -- MWR driver is having a lot of fun and plans for it to continue to the end of the year

Clint Bowyer's always been fast with a quip. In 2012, he's proving to be just as fast behind the wheel.

Bowyer added a win last weekend at Richmond to his victory earlier in the season at Sonoma, placing him sixth in the standings once the points were reset for the 10-race Chase.

"We are playing on house money. Everything above and beyond here is just an extra bonus."

--CLINT BOWYER

He was a welcome addition to this week's pre-race festivities, cracking wise throughout the Chase contenders live event at the House of Blues. Bowyer poked fun at Jeff Gordon's AARP sponsorship, Greg Biffle's math skills and Carl Edwards' absence -- but with a huge dollop of self-deprecation.

It was classic, vintage Bowyer, who always has seen the funny side of life. While other drivers tense up at the very idea of the task ahead, Bowyer not only seems calm, cool and collected, but also is almost giddy at the prospect.

"It's fun, man," Bowyer said. "It was fun the other day to see all the Chase drivers happy and excited. You don't always see the drivers exactly happy, all at the same time. But I promise you, those 12 drivers were happy to be there and having a lot of fun the other night. It's neat to be in that environment.

"We'll probably be back to miserable [Sunday]."

Bowyer is rarely miserable, and after winning last weekend, he couldn't be in a better mood heading into Sunday's 400-miler at Chicagoland Speedway. He qualified ninth at a track where he has five top-10 finishes in six career starts.

After his lap Saturday, Bowyer was upbeat.

"I think I got everything I could out of [Turns] 1 and 2 but slipped up a little in 3 and 4," Bowyer said. "I didn't hook the bottom quite as good as I needed to run any faster."

Bowyer missed the Chase last season, so after moving to Michael Waltrip Racing this year, getting back to NASCAR's postseason was one of his major goals. Now that he's accomplished that, Bowyer feels any additional success is just icing on the cake.

Actually, he put it more in gambling terms.

"We are playing on house money," Bowyer said. "Everything above and beyond here is just an extra bonus. When you start out the year, you set out to win races, to make the Chase and be a part of that Chase championship run. Now, we've done that.

"We're rolling into the Chase with a handful of confidence and momentum, and just full of positive things. We're riding a hell of a wave here, and it's a lot of fun. But more importantly, I think we can carry this baby on to the end of the year."

Even the decision to switch spotters -- adding Brett Griffin as Bowyer's eyes in the sky, beginning this weekend -- doesn't seem to faze him. If success breeds success, Bowyer -- along with teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Mark Martin -- is flush with confidence.

Why? Because MWR's Toyotas have been blazing fast all summer. Consider the past four races.

By all rights, Truex should have won at Atlanta. Mark Martin had what seemed like the car to beat at Michigan when he wound up spinning down pit road and impaling his car on the concrete pit wall. And part-time MWR driver Brian Vickers couldn't quite hold off hard-charging Denny Hamlin at Bristol.

"I've been in this sport long enough to know success is where that confidence comes from," Bowyer said. "And that can go away as quick as it showed up. But the speed that we have in these race cars is really bringing a lot of confidence and momentum to our program, and I think we can keep that going for the next few races."

What fans might be seeing for the first time in this Chase is the fun Bowyer brings to the No. 15 team every weekend.

"I hope I haven't changed any," Bowyer said. "I'm running better than I ever have, and when you're running better, you're seen more. I've always enjoyed being under the radar and having fun with my guys.

"That's one thing about me and my attitude, I guess. [The thing] I've always been able to bring to the table is keeping things light-hearted and keeping it fun, and not let the pressure get to the guys surrounding me."

If Bowyer continues to have a smile on his face as the Chase rolls on, he'll find himself surrounded by more and more folks, waiting to hear what he has to say.