Clint Bowyer knows that he’s at least close enough to securing a spot into this year’s NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver currently sits 36 points above the cutoff line as we head to his home track of the Kansas Speedway this Thursday night.
But, with the recent wins by Cole Custer and Austin Dillon, that comfort is waning a bit. Bowyer, would be 13th in the playoff standings if both don’t win in consecutive weeks. Instead, he’s 15th.
“Yeah, you’re looking at points. You’re always looking at points,” Bowyer said of his situation now. “They both did a great job of holding on to their clean air. You know what I mean? I’m a little .. hell, you’re jealous. That’s what you are. I wish I got strategy and a caution would have come out put me in the lead and been able to hold on to the win and not have to worry about it anymore. I mean it’s as simple as that. I mean they were decent cars but they weren’t leading lap cars, you put them in the lead and they drove off. Both of them.”
Bowyer, said that he’s not in a must win position yet, but they just need to step their game up to get this ship turned around again.
“To be honest, the way these draws, the random draw for just the top-12, thinking back to Talladega, that one last lap right there where we got in a wreck flipped positions with my teammate Aric Almirola,” said Bowyer on the draws. “Boy, if I would have known then the difference that would have made a couple months later I probably wouldn’t have made that move.
“It has been a constant battle trying to dig ourselves out of a hole. The way that the draw is for the top-12 it basically just protects those guys and makes it virtually impossible for anybody outside of that to capitalize on that first stage which puts them in a really good position points wise for the rest of the race.
“Furthermore, it puts you in a situation to have to try to gamble either at the tail end of that first stage or throughout that second stage to try to capitalize off some points whether it be that second stage or set yourself up for the end of the race. Anytime you go to gamble we all know that it can either win or lose big. Nine times out of 10 the house wins from what I can see.
“So, I am kind of frustrated in a sense that I feel like over the last month and a half we have had a lot better runs than our stats show. Again, just constantly digging yourself out of a hole because of the way we start these races has been a challenge. Very, very challenging as a matter of fact.”
So, what would his idea of a better way to do things?
“I honestly think one through 20 would shake the race up well, and that puts me in a situation where I could start 20th,” said Bowyer. “That’s not necessarily just putting it out there that it’s going to make my day better selfishly for me. I think that’s what the sport means. I think we’re putting our best cars right up front in the clean air on racetracks where we know that that’s important.
“I’m frustrated with this tire that we have. I think we all are and we’re protecting those guys. I think a one through 20 would probably be well. I saw that come up just like we all did. A fan actually had that idea of the week previous fastest lap but the problem with that, and I love the idea and that that mentality is phenomenal and I appreciate that fan for bringing that to the table. It’s a great idea. The problem with that is I can tell you who’s going to have the fastest lap. The guy in the lead when in the cleanest air. So that being said, again, it’s ] not going to shake the race up and in my opinion that’s what we need to do. The cream will rise to the top. The best teams will and if you can shake them up week in and week out in this scenario with no practice and everything else it will shake your environment up and make for a better race. I one hundred percent believe that.”
Bowyer, is only 15 points out of 12th in the owners points right now, so he can quickly make that up and maybe the finishes will start coming. The problem is, if they don’t start coming and he somehow misses the playoffs, he may be out of a ride at SHR.
“No, I haven’t really talked to them much about it,” said Bowyer who’s a free agent at seasons end. “I’ve been talking to partners and things like that and just trying to do everything that I can do to make sure that all the things are lined up for next year for them. I mean, that’s what I can do … we’ve got to, I’ve got to do a better job inside the race car, we got to do a better job of getting this 14 car back up front where it belongs. Doesn’t matter what you do outside the car if you’re not taken care of what is in the car, you shouldn’t be in any of them.
“Stewart-Haas is a wonderful organization. I want to be there. I want to retire there and and I love the opportunity and the people behind it. I believe all the pieces of the puzzle are there. The manufacturer in Ford, I mean, we’re sitting here representing Ford today and you couldn’t ask for a better manufacturer that’s invested in the sport the way they are. I just again, it’s a perfect fit for me. We started off really, really well. Started the front side of this pandemic well. We’ve run into some bumps in the road. And honestly, I hate to say it, I can almost pinpoint it on Talladega.
“You put it on Talladega and flip that over. And the next two months have been drastically different because of that, literally, every time we start the race we’re behind. And you’re behind cars that are hard to catch up with. If those guys hang, you know, 8 to 10 points of stage points on you. It’s a bit virtually impossible. You’ve got to do something then to try to differentiate yourself and nine times out of 10 the way that these races are, things don’t work out.
“Then you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t on a strategy call. You know, three weeks in a row, we were running in a single digit and look to have an easy single digit finish. And two top fives out of that the caution comes out a couple laps after you pit and the rest is history. You end up 15th to 20th. I mean it’s that fast it can change. But again it was a gamble because we were trying to catch up so anyway.”
Bowyer, has to hear the noise that Kyle Larson is on the short list of coming to SHR. We know Kevin Harvick will be back and I don’t see any reason to why Cole Custer wouldn’t return either. Then, with the way Aric Almirola is racing, SHR has enough reason to extend his contract another year too.
That would leave Bowyer’s ride needing to be filled if he and SHR don’t reach an extension. Yes, Almirola and Custer technically are free agents at seasons end too, but both are going to be playoff drivers.
Bowyer, was brought in to replace Tony Stewart and he’s done an exceptional job of doing so. But, how long does SHR keep holding on or do they go and get younger? Chase Briscoe is also sitting there needing to move up.