According to Clint Bowyer, it’s amazing what you can do when you put together a fast car with a pissed off attitude.
In Bowyer’s case, it was a top-five finish at Chicagoland Speedway. Bowyer fell off the lead lap midway through the first stage of the Overton’s 400 when he was caught speeding on pit road during his first pit stop and a second time when serving his penalty. He had been leading the race at the time.
The problems were compound by Bowyer’s confusion.
After being called for his first speeding penalty, Bowyer correctly did a pass-through where he came down pit road and drove through back onto the track. But when he was caught speeding during that process, Bowyer was called back down for a stop-and-go penalty, where he needed to return to pit road and stop in his box before returning to the track.
But a confused Bowyer instead did a pass-through. A third trip down pit road saw Bowyer correctly serve the penalty, but by then he was two laps off the pace.
“The guys work very hard on making sure that they’re pushing the envelope, which you have to do in this world and against this competition; you have to push everything,” said Bowyer. “Certainly, pit road is a big part of that. You’re splitting hairs out there on the racetrack down to the tenths of a second, and you can gain seconds on pit road. Obviously, our pit road speed was just a little too fast.
“We practiced it yesterday, and the guys even made some adjustments but that tight section down there was just too fast. The first time you second-guess yourself. You come down the second time, and you are cautious and speed again so now you know you’ve got a problem. Then it was just confusion on my part. I wasn’t listening and made a mistake and cost us a third time down. We got good at pitting today, unfortunately.”
Bowyer fell to as low 35th on the leaderboard. But even two laps off the pace, Bowyer was running laps consistent with the leaders.
A timely caution on Lap 128 helped Bowyer get back on the lead lap. From there he drove inside the top 10 just past the Lap 140 mark. Although he never challenged for the win or saw the lead again (he led 21 total laps), Bowyer picked up his sixth top-five finish of the season and was also able to earn points in stage two.
“Our race team is young and making some mistakes, but we have time to gain on those and build on those,” said Bowyer. “You hate to give away those stage points. I think we could have won both those stages and maybe been in contention for a win. I’m proud of everybody.
“WIX Filters was on the car this weekend, and everybody at Ford and the IT Savvy folks are here. We have a lot of good mojo on this 14 car; we just have to put it all together to get another win.”