Clint Bowyer spins boss, but both get top-fives
July 07, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Michael Waltrip was headed back to the garage when he saw Rodney Childers, his crew chief, headed toward the inspection bay for post-race teardown.
“Amazing,” Waltrip said as he draped his arm across Childers’ shoulder. “You fixed my car! With a block of wood!”
Childers could only grin. It was quite the comeback.
Waltrip, making one of only a handful of starts for the team he co-owns with Rob Kauffman, had just finished fifth in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. It was his second top-five in three starts this season in restrictor-plate races.
Clint Bowyer, his teammate at Michael Waltrip Racing, finished fourth.
The results came in spite of a pit-road accident involving both drivers on lap 129 of the 161-lap event.
Bowyer’s car suffered no visible damage when he made the move toward his pit stall, collecting Waltrip.
Waltrip, whose No. 55 Toyota was spun around and wound up rear-end first in his pit box, wasn’t as fortunate.
“He didn’t know I was pitting, I guess,” Waltrip said. “He said it surprised him that I turned, but my pit box was there. He just didn’t realize it.
“Luckily I’ve got an amazing crew because they put some packer in the front because the front end was clobbering the ground. And then they dropped the nose on the jack.”
The incident dropped Waltrip from 19th to 36th. But with 28 laps remaining (before a green-white-checkered finish pushed it to 29), Waltrip quickly made his way back through the field with drafting help from David Gilliland.
“It just knocked the nose down about three inches on the front,” Childers said. “It bowed the hood up. The guys did a good job getting the hood screwed down to the cowl and taping it down.
“Basically we just had to put a lot of ‘packer’ in the right front just to try to hold it up. We got some in it; didn’t get enough.”
Although the splitter was making contact with the racing surface, Childers said he knew it would eventually wear down and not be a concern.
“A place like here, it doesn’t really hurt you as bad,” he said. “Once he got the splitter worn down, it was back to being fast again.”
Bowyer’s fourth consecutive top-10 and sixth in the last seven races helped move him from third to second in the points standings. He trails race winner and points leader Jimmie Johnson by 49 after 18 of this season’s 36 points events.
“I was pushing Michael, got against the bottom of him and got him passed,” Bowyer said of the final charge that saw multiple cars crash moments after Johnson had taken the white flag. “I looked in the mirror and all hell broke loose. Man, that’s Daytona.”
Although he qualified third, Bowyer spent much of the race running near the rear of the field in an effort to avoid potential problems while saving his equipment.
By lap 150, he was back inside the top 10.
“I made a rule with myself at restrictor-plate tracks to be easy (and) ride around,” Bowyer said. “It’s boring, you hate to do that for your sponsors and the team, (they) want to be up there racing … but it’s just kind of been working for me.”
Drafting with Marcos Ambrose, Bowyer was in contention as finish neared, but a late caution involving the Richard Petty Motorsports driver and Kasey Kahne put Bowyer on the inside row on the final restart.
“I knew we were going to be in trouble because I wouldn’t be able to use that middle (lane),” he said. “They came through that middle, and I was like ‘Oh no!”
“I was lucky to get back up there. Hey, I’ll take a top five.”