News & Media


Bowyer looking to make waves at 'fun' Talladega

October 05, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

Clint Bowyer hopes to keep the field, and its Big One, behind him as he tries for his third straight Talladega Chase win. (Getty)

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- With the controlled chaos known as Talladega Superspeedway next up on the schedule, there are an awful lot of nervous folks around the Sprint Cup Series garage area this weekend.

Clint Bowyer is not one of them.

"I think this track is the reason why everybody in the Chase is still in it. Maybe the 12th guy can be the only one that doesn't get taken out and, if he does, he comes out of here with a whole new outlook. "

--CLINT BOWYER

Like the overwhelming majority of the fans who have flocked to NASCAR's biggest, baddest oval, he's ready to have a "[darn] good time all weekend." Sunday could be Bowyer's best chance to not only remain in contention for the championship, but to grab this year's Chase by the scuff of the neck and shake it until the competition falls by the wayside.

Bowyer is fourth in the points, 25 behind leader Brad Keselowski. But, in Bowyer's own words, Talladega can be a "game-changer" because of its unpredictability. At the same time, he's won each of the past two fall races here, so Bowyer sees Sunday as a race which could possibly result in wild momentum swings.

"This is one of the tracks that can separate somebody and possibly win you a championship," Bowyer said. "It seems like each and every week, these first few [races], it's just been a point or two here, a point or two there. This is one that can swing 20, 30 points and take you out of the running -- or push you into it.

"Everybody is anticipating those last few laps here. I love racing here. It's so much fun. That's such a thrill to be able to go around there and know that the storm is brewing and all hell is fixing to break loose and you're fixing to be a part of it. It's a pretty neat situation to be in."

The smart money is on Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin, based on their performances over the first three races in the Chase. But Bowyer cautions those who have already written off the rest of the Chase field: Talladega can throw a huge monkey wrench into the works.

One lapse of judgment, one little mistake -- even one mechanical malfunction -- could set off the inevitable multi-car accident. And Bowyer believes that's what could set the tone for the rest of the championship battle.

"I think this track is the reason why everybody in the Chase is still in it," Bowyer said. "This is the only track that all of us can get wiped out -- or maybe all of us but one or two.

"Maybe the 12th guy can be the only one that doesn't get taken out and, if he does, he comes out of here with a whole new outlook 10 or 15 points out of the lead."

When you're trying to find that delicate balance between being careful to avoid getting caught up in the Big One, but staying aggressive enough to give yourself a chance to win the race, what's the best strategy?

Bowyer said that's where qualifying well can be a benefit.

"If you're up front starting the race, you want to stay up front and stay up there," Bowyer said. "If not, you don't want to be wiped out of this thing before halfway or even three-quarters of the way through. You've got to be able to get yourself to the end of the thing, then get yourself in position.

"It doesn't matter if you lead all the laps and run up front all day long, if you're not there when that checkered flag falls, nobody knows who led the most laps in most of these races anyways. Nobody even cares. They all care about who won, and more importantly, where this Chase bunch finished, because that's what it's all about right now."

Opportunity may be about to knock this weekend, and Bowyer wants to be the first one to open the door. But you can have your race strategy all planned out in advance -- and it can go right out the window on the first lap.

Talladega is perhaps the racer's version of the Serenity Prayer: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot control, the courage to control the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference (when cars are spinning in all directions and the spotter's yelling in my earpiece)." There aren't a lot of things a driver can control in the chaos of a Talladega race, but Bowyer said being smart is one way to keep from ruining his own day.

"You can put yourself in bad situations and you can cause the wreck," Bowyer said. "[The] one thing you don't want to do is be the one that causes the wreck. You have so much more room here than you do at Daytona to move around and be more aggressive.

"The grip level seems to be higher and you have more confidence in your moves and the things that you do out there on the race track. In doing so we tend to, in my opinion, get ourselves in trouble more here than we do at Daytona."

As long as trouble finds somebody else this weekend, Bowyer is all for the reorganization of the status quo.

"This is a good thing for our sport, it's a good thing for our Chase and this is a good thing to have in this Chase race," Bowyer said. "A lot of drivers and teams hate this part of it, but at the end of the day, as a fan, this is what we all want to see.

"We want to see it shake things up, and hopefully it does, but not too much."