Its been a long 65 races since Clint Bowyer last won a race. With a wild final few laps in Sunday’s Food City 500, there Bowyer found his No. 14 Ford in second place with just a couple of laps-to-go. So, you’d have to forgive him if he purposely moved Brad Keselowski out of the way to win for the first time in nearly two years.
Instead, Bowyer finished second, his best finish of the season. Still, he admitted that if he could catch Keselowski, he for sure was going to force his way by for the win.
“My plan was to move him when I got to him,” Bowyer admitted post race. “I probably would have done that.”
Bowyer said that he was surprised that NASCAR didn’t throw the caution when Joey Logano and Chase Elliott crashed each other for the lead with three laps-to-go, but did say it was the right call now to.
“I was a little bit surprised,” Bowyer continued. “As hard as contact as they made, Brett was keeping me informed, he was right on it. He kind of said that it was going to go green, needed to try to get up there to the 2. That’s what we did.
“That was the right call. They kept forward momentum. Everybody was by them. It wasn’t unsafe. I mean, I do this a lot, man. I don’t just do this on Sundays. I have dirt late model teams that run. I watch racing all the time, all different forms of racing. That was the right call. That was the call that any sanctioning body would have made.”
Bowyer, is frustrated still, not because of the finish, but because his race car wasn’t very good for all 500 laps. He feels that they lucked into a top five in fact.
“We really wasn’t very good today. I was kind of frustrated with the way we ran, to be honest with you. We kind of get to the top 10, we got jumbled up on pit cycles. Could have, would have, should have there.”
Bowyer, was confident heading to the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway. He calls the .526-mile oval one of the funnest on the NASCAR schedule to race on. That’s part of the reason why he leaves Sunday’s Food City 500 with his eighth top 10 finish on the high banked Tennessee oval in his last 10 tries including 11 of the last 14 there overall.
“We actually struggled pretty bad with our setup,” Bowyer said after scoring his sixth top 10 in seven tries at Bristol with Stewart-Haas Racing. “I don’t know, it was floating the nose really bad up off the corner all day long. I could gain and make some ground up in the center of the corner in, and in the middle, but if I had to pass somebody and turn underneath of them I didn’t have the real estate. The outside was no man’s land for me. I couldn’t get my front end to turn at all. The 2 car hit the 6 car into me and clobbered my whole left side. I was needing that 2 car to be a little bit closer. I wasn’t gonna feel bad about moving him, but it just didn’t materialize.”
This was a much needed finish too. Bowyer, had only finished 17th, 22nd, 39th and 16th respectively in the four races since NASCAR’s return to action from the COVID-19 break. While he swept both stages in the second Darlington race, he crashed in the end and finished 22nd.
So, to bring an ill handling race car home with a top five on Sunday, it’s was vastly needed to his confidence, especially since he didn’t think he had a top five car anyways.
“I think we capitalized obviously at the end,” Bowyer continued. “Probably should have pitted once and it bit us. But just kind of a track position game really. Once you got up front, I was two or three tenths faster. Somehow finished second.
“I think we were probably legit around a 10th-place car tonight, which honestly is a little bit uncharacteristic. I thought we were going to have a shot at leading some laps, leading up front.
“Frustrating with the way we ran, but satisfied, to say the least.”