Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bowyer focuses, blocks out penalty

“This is a crucial time for us,” says veteran Sprint Cup driver Clint Bowyer, who enters today’s race 12th in points.

Getty Images

“This is a crucial time for us,” says veteran Sprint Cup driver Clint Bowyer, who enters today’s race 12th in points.

LOUDON, N.H. — Clint Bowyer put the trophy from last year's victory at New Hampshire in his house.

The other memories from that weekend are not so good.

Bowyer's winning car in the Chase for the Championship opener flunked inspection, and NASCAR levied penalties that ended his Sprint Cup title hopes.

The 150-point penalty from his September infraction was so devastating that not even another Chase race victory at Talladega could budge him out of last place in the 12-driver field.

But that episode is far from Bowyer's focus in his New Hampshire return this weekend.

Bowyer is in 12th place again, a spot that, thanks to the revamped points system, puts him outside the Chase field.

"This is a crucial time for us," he said. "We're still within reaching distance of the cars in front of us, so this is a good time to get things pointed back in the right direction points-wise."

There are eight races left until the Chase field is set.

For 10 races, Bowyer was inside the top 10, and a string of five straight top-10 finishes made it look as if he would stay in contention. But consecutive poor finishes (36th at Daytona, 35th last week at Kentucky) knocked him out of the Chase field and behind 11th-place driver Tony Stewart.

Bowyer and his Richard Childress Racing team have huddled for solutions.

"Everybody across the board — driver, crew chief, the pit crew, over-the-wall guys — it can very easily become a negative and spiral out of control," Bowyer said. "But there are so many positives about our season. We've run well, and that's what has put us in this situation."

Bowyer, 32, who is eligible for free agency at the end of this season, hits a milestone today when he makes his 200th career Cup start. He has led more than 400 laps at New Hampshire and has two wins.

"He just has a kind of unique feel and setup for this particular racetrack as to what he likes in the car," teammate Kevin Harvick said.

It's the car that got him in trouble last year.

He entered the race as the last seed in the field then led a race-high 177 laps and stretched his final tank of gas 92 laps to win. The victory snapped an 88-race winless streak for Bowyer.

His celebration seemed to last only slightly longer than the race. NASCAR said the No. 33 Chevrolet had been altered and did not meet its strict specifications.

Bowyer was penalized 150 points. NASCAR fined crew chief Shane Wilson $150,000 and suspended him for six races. Car chief Chad Haney was suspended for six races, and Childress was docked 150 owner points.

When he rolled into Dover the next week, Bowyer gave a defiant defense of his team. Other drivers openly mocked his excuse — that a wrecker hit the rear bumper when it pushed the car into the winner's circle — and the penalties clearly tarnished his victory.

Bowyer again stuck up for his team this weekend and insisted the incident was behind him. He just didn't understand the process NASCAR put his car through.

But now it's about cracking the top 10. Those spots are guaranteed. There are two more wild-card spots reserved for drivers from 11 to 20 with the most victories. Bowyer is winless this season, so inching up to two spots is huge.

"With this crazy wild-card thing, this is a good track for us to get a win and solidify ourselves in the Chase," he said. "So it's an important weekend."

.Fast facts

Sprint Cup points

Through 18 of 36 races. The top 10 drivers plus two wild cards (based on wins) through 26 races make the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Kyle Busch 624—

Carl Edwards 620 4

Kevin Harvick 614 10

Kurt Busch 606 18

J. Johnson 605 19

Matt Kenseth 602 22

Jeff Gordon 553 71

D. Earnhardt Jr. 548 76

Ryan Newman 538 86

Denny Hamlin 529 95

Today's race

Lenox Industrial Tools 300, 1, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon TV: TNT

Bowyer focuses, blocks out penalty 07/16/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 16, 2011 9:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays journal: Erasmo Ramirez ready to start a day after closing game

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — RHP Erasmo Ramirez was on the mound to finish Sunday's 15-inning marathon win over the Twins and will start tonight's game against the Rangers.

    The Rays’ Erasmo Ramirez throws 12 pitches in the 15th inning against the Twins to earn the save then says after the game that he’s ready to make his scheduled start against the Rangers: “My arm feels good.”
  2. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  3. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  4. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Sunday's Rays-Twins game

    The Heater

    The Rays won because they got two innings of good relief from each of the two pitchers who contributed to them losing Saturday's game, Danny Farquhar (who again struck out Miguel Sano) and Tommy Hunter, who both posted zeroes.