RICHMOND, Va. — Clint Bowyer stalked race leader Martin Truex Jr. over the final 50 laps Saturday night at Richmond Raceway, saving his tires and using his long-run speed to eventually track down and catch Truex Jr.’s No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Catching him, yes. Passing him was a different matter.
Bowyer pulled his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford right alongside Truex Jr. several times in the waning laps, but couldn’t quite make the race-winning pass in what was a thrilling conclusion to the Toyota Owners 400.
“We were the fastest car on the long run,” said Bowyer, who methodically moved his way up from the 14th starting spot. “We were clearly not the fastest car. One of the fastest cars is sitting over there in Victory Lane. We had better long-run speed than them. We raced better than them. We made some good adjustments that woke our car up, and we did a good job of working on our car because no, we unloaded and qualified terrible.
“Good track for me and good adjustments on his behalf, and our pit crew was good. It’s a team effort and we pulled through and prevailed with a good finish, but damn, you get that close, you want to win that thing.”
Seeking his first win of 2019 and third career victory at Richmond, Bowyer gradually eased into contention and benefited from his car’s long-run capabilities when the final 148 laps went caution-free. As he continued to chip into the lead margin, his spotter, Brett Griffin, kept up the encouragement: “Sittin’ pretty, man. My money’s on you.”
That challenge, though, faded over the final five laps after a scrape of the wall as Truex held on for his first career win at a short track. The extra wear on Bowyer’s equipment in chasing down Truex allowed Joey Logano to slip by for second place with the laps dwindling.
“I don’t know what I could have done any different,” Bowyer told FOX Sports right after the race. “You hate to get that close. I thought this was our night.”
For the No. 14 bunch, there was some consolation in bringing home the team’s fourth consecutive top-10 finish. Saturday night’s effort followed another strong run last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway and marked the second straight year that Bowyer notched top 10s at the Martinsville-Texas-Bristol-Richmond spring stretch.
“Regardless of what some people may think, I really felt like the last four weeks, we’ve had a car that was just as capable of winning as the guy who won,” said crew chief Mike Bugarewicz. “Just can’t seem to close it out.”
Contributing: Zack Albert