News & Media

Bowyer, Ragan fall into 'win-at-all-costs' group

September 06, 2011, Mark Aumann,

HAMPTON, Ga. -- Clint Bowyer's chances at making the Chase took a major hit Tuesday when he bounced off the mainstretch wall. David Ragan's came apart soon after, courtesy of a blown engine. And now, like seven others, they find themselves in a must-win situation when the series heads for Richmond.

That's not the case for Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, who guaranteed themselves no worse than a spot in the top 10 with their runs in the AdvoCare 500. Gordon and Harvick had previously qualified for the Chase, thanks to their victory totals.

"I bet there's still a mathematical chance that we could win Richmond and get into the top 20 and make the Chase."


And Brad Keselowski, completing an amazing summer rally, clinched at least one of the two wild card spots available in the 12-car field. That leaves as many as 12 drivers vying for the final three spots, four days from now.

Bowyer's 36th-place finish -- resulting from an incident with Juan Montoya some 85 laps from the end -- eliminated him from having a shot at the top 10. He now needs a victory to keep his Chase hopes alive.

Bowyer appeared to being trying to slide up in front of Montoya coming out of Turn 4 when the two cars touched, sending Bowyer hard into the outside wall. After being released from the infield care center, Bowyer pulled no punches in his disgust.

"He dive-bombs the starts and bullies his way up in there and before you know it, he's in the way and wrecking with somebody," Bowyer said. "Unfortunately, I was the victim this week. It's just a shame.

"We're out here racing for a spot in the Chase. He's out here racing for nothing. I'm tired of it. Everybody in the garage area fights him. He's just an idiot."

After the race, Montoya said there was nothing intentional about the contact.

"No, I was still there," Montoya said. "I don't know if [his spotter] told him he was clear or he looked in his mirror and thought he was clear. He came up. It's always frustrating when you get wrecked, but I think when he looks at the video, he'll think differently."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart continue to hold down the final two top-10 positions, with Keselowski and Denny Hamlin the only two drivers still with a mathematical chance to pass either of them. Earnhardt can lock down one by finishing no worse than 20th at Richmond, while Stewart can do the same if he finishes 18th or better.

The other wild card slot is up for grabs between several drivers -- including Ragan -- who could add a second win and wind up in the top 20 at night's end. That's the same mindset for Denny Hamlin, Paul Menard and Marcos Ambrose.

"I bet there's still a mathematical chance that we could win Richmond and get into the top 20 and make the Chase," Ragan said. "And that's certainly the mindset we're going to have. We're not going to give up, no matter what."

Drivers who could score a win at Richmond and overtake Hamlin -- who currently has a tenuous hold on the other wild card slot -- include A.J. Allmendinger, Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Martin Truex and, to a lesser extent, Kasey Kahne and Joey Logano.