Clint Bowyer appeared well positioned to win Monday’s rain-delayed Brickyard 400 into the closing stages of the race, but the Stewart-Haas Ford driver’s prospects then slipped away. The No. 14 driver lost the lead to Denny Hamlin on the final round of scheduled pit stops, then lost traction at the final restart, enabling eventual winner Brad Keselowski to get by (pictured) and ultimately dropped back to fifth at the finish. However, Bowyer said he felt the strength of his showing, which included 37 laps led, provided a useful confidence boost ahead of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ playoffs, which start next week.
“Absolutely. You’ve got to use good runs like that for a confidence-booster for the playoffs. It was a good run for us,” said Bowyer, who punched his ticket for the postseason with his win at Martinsville.
While lamenting how his race turned out, Bowyer felt there was little he could have done differently as things played out.
“Man, it’s a game of luck. There wasn’t really any strategy,” he said. “You can’t strategize for cautions that you don’t know are gonna exist. I felt like we were definitely faster than the 11 (Hamlin), but when he beat us out of the pits there… nobody passed anybody for the lead unless they had a huge advantage on tires — and then all of a sudden the cautions come out and hand the 2 (Keselowski) the win. That’s what’s frustrating, but that’s the nature of the beast here.”
Similarly Bowyer felt his problematic restarts were a function of the circumstances he was in.
“The first one wasn’t terrible. When you’re on a drag race, where you start like that where it’s flat and you have to wait until he does something, you’re behind,” he mused. “The only thing you could possibly do is roll up to him, which I was trying to do — and as soon as you roll to him all they have to do is check and break your momentum and cause you to lift and then you’re screwed. When they’re dead straight drag races like that, you’re at a disadvantage — which you should be, he’s the leader — but the problem is those guys on tires and stuff like that behind you are then able to roll to you and they’re the ones with the advantage. It really isn’t the front row, it’s the second row and even the third row sometimes.”
All the issues with inclement weather meant that the Cup field went into Monday’s race with no-pre-race practice. Bowyer said that prospect wasn’t daunting, however. In some ways it might even have helped.
“In today’s day and age when you’ve got a guy like Mike (Bugarewicz, crew chief) and his talents with simulation and things like that, I’m not really worried about it,” he said. “Nine times out of 10, you start the weekend out and you change things, and you second-guess yourself and you change some more, you second-guess yourself, and by the time it’s all said and done, when you really look back at things your best runs were when you went right back to how you unloaded.”