Monday, April 23, 2018
Sports

Bowyer seeks peace, Sprint Cup win back home at Kansas

Clint Bowyer stepped on the yoga mat, clasped his hands together, closed his eyes and tried to forget all of his troubles.

It wasn't easy.

The Sprint Cup driver was at the epicenter of one the biggest controversies in the history of the sport when NASCAR cited his car owner, Michael Waltrip Racing, for "manipulating" the finish of the Sprint Cup race on Sept. 7 at Richmond, Va.

It has been hard for Bowyer to find a moment of peace since.

Last week, he and fellow driver Ryan Newman spent four days elk hunting in Wyoming. Then appearing on behalf of a sponsor, he helped lead a yoga class on the infield at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

"Relaaax," instructor Jessica Coyne intoned.

Good advice for Bowyer, who has spent the better part of three weeks deflecting criticism and denying accusations that he intentionally spun in the closing laps at Richmond to create a caution and deny Newman a win. MWR teammate Martin Truex went on to qualify for the Chase for the Championship over Newman.

NASCAR fined Waltrip $300,000 and tossed Truex from the Chase (adding Newman and Jeff Gordon, who also had missed a spot). Bowyer was docked 50 points, though that didn't affect his Chase standing.

The stress took a toll on Bowyer, who comes to his home track of Kansas Speedway for today's Hollywood Casino 400 a distant eighth in the Chase.

"Anytime somebody is not happy or proud of you, you're always bothered by it," he said. "Nonetheless, we got through it and are looking forward."

Bowyer understands why so much vitriol has been directed at him, but he believes his reputation has not been tarnished.

"It depends on whose fan you are," Bowyer said. "If you're a Jeff Gordon fan, yeah, you're probably (ticked) at me. But it's racing. I'm sure when Jeff Gordon crashed me (last year at Phoenix), I'm sure some of his fans were questioning him and his thought process."

Those in Bowyer's camp maintain Waltrip and team general manager Ty Norris put him in a difficult spot.

"He was, but he wasn't," former crew chief and Fox analyst Larry McReynolds said. "…I've heard all the talk, (that) 'If your boss tells you to do something, you have to do it.' No you don't. You don't do stupid stuff. He made a mistake. I bet you no one knows it more than Clint does."

Now Bowyer just hopes for his first win this season and to rise as high as possible in the standings.

"I thought when we hit this Chase, we were going to be a contender," Bowyer said. "Given the last three weeks, we're not."

Backup: Kyle Busch hit the wall in practice and will start in the back of the field in a backup car for today's Cup race.

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Published: 04/22/18