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NASCAR's Clint Bowyer eager to return to Richmond

Clint Bowyer’s spin late in the September 2013 race at Richmond started a controversy that saw his Michael Waltrip Racing team punished and the Chase for the Championship field expanded.

Getty Images

Clint Bowyer’s spin late in the September 2013 race at Richmond started a controversy that saw his Michael Waltrip Racing team punished and the Chase for the Championship field expanded.

RICHMOND, Va. — Clint Bowyer sounds happy to be back at Richmond International Raceway for tonight's Sprint Cup race.

NASCAR's last visit, in September, threatened Bowyer's reputation when he spun intentionally with seven laps left, causing a jumble in the race standings — and in the Chase for the Championship.

Bowyer went from second in points heading into the Chase to being distracted by a NASCAR investigation that led to fines and suspensions against Michael Waltrip Racing. Teammate Martin Truex was tossed from the Chase and Jeff Gordon was added.

By the time the Chase was two races old, Bowyer was essentially out of contention.

"The fan base, Twitter and things like that — I took a beating for a while, but we weathered the storm, it's behind us and it's a lot of fun to interact with those fans, whether it's good or bad," he said Friday. "It's all positive interaction as far as I'm concerned because they are talking about our sport."

Bowyer, who got married during the week off for Easter, would like to leave them talking again for another reason in tonight's Toyota Owners 400, his third career victory at a favored track.

"Looking back over the years, you always have a track that fits your driving style and your confidence level is more for some reason, and this has always been the case for me," he said. "I'm looking forward to having another good run here and shaking that off from last year."

Winless through eight races, and with two top-10 finishes, Bowyer is 16th in points and eager to get a victory most drivers think will be a free pass into the 16-driver Chase this year.

And, he said, the numbers are more dire than his team's performance. He counts Martinsville, Texas and California as tracks where he was in contention until something happened.

"It's definitely been that kind of year," he said.

Qualifying rained out: Rookie Kyle Larson starts from the pole in tonight's Cup race after a thunderstorm washed out Friday's qualifying. The field was set based on the fastest laps run in the first practice. The top starting spot comes in just the 13th series start for Larson, whose top lap was 126.880 mph on the 0.75-mile track.

RG3 grand marshal: Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will drive the pace car before tonight's race, partly thanks to NASCAR's most popular Redskins fan. The track said Dale Earnhardt Jr. got the ball rolling in late March when he tweeted to Griffin about being grand marshal for the race. Track president Dennis Bickmeier chimed in on Twitter, telling Griffin he would love to have him drive the pace car instead. The following Monday, track officials reached out to the Redskins.

Sprint Cup points

After eight of 26 races. Sixteen drivers will make the season-ending Chase for the Championship.

Driver Points Back

Jeff Gordon 297—

Matt Kenseth 296 1

Carl Edwards* 278 19

Dale Earnhardt Jr.* 271 26

Jimmie Johnson 270 27

Kyle Busch* 269 28

Brad Keselowski* 246 51

Joey Logano* 245 52

Ryan Newman 236 61

Austin Dillon 235 62

Greg Biffle 227 70

Tony Stewart 224 73

Brian Vickers 224 73

Note: Kevin Harvick (two wins) has clinched a Chase bid as long as he starts each race

* Has a win

Tonight's race

Toyota Owners 400, 7, Richmond (Va.) International Raceway TV: Ch. 13

NASCAR's Clint Bowyer eager to return to Richmond 04/25/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2014 10:26pm]
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