In the last five weeks, Clint Bowyer has gone from sitting safely inside the top 10 in points to the guy on the playoff grid bubble, and he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t concerned.
“You look at the way we were running in April and May — we were knocking on the door,” said the Stewart-Haas Racing driver Saturday afternoon at Daytona. “I look back at Richmond — man, if I had known then what I know now, I would have moved [Martin] Truex out of the way and won that race by a straightaway like I probably should have done.
“But, in the moment right there, the way we were running, I wasn’t worried about it. If we didn’t win that night, we were going to win the next night.”
Bowyer faded to a third-place finish at Richmond after hounding Truex for much of the final 40 laps. When his No. 14 Ford started to get tighter throughout the run, Bowyer’s brush with the wall ended his fight as Joey Logano caught him and took the runner-up spot. At the time, Richmond was Bowyer’s fourth-straight top-seven finish.
“We were running really, really well, and that win was coming,” continued Bowyer. “But that’s racing man. You can go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows pretty damn fast, and we did that, we proved that from May to June — we went from seventh or eighth in points to 16th or something.
“But we’re not a 16th place team, and I know that.
“I guess as long as you know that inside the car, it can be changed. I said that in a tweet and I believe that. If you can lose it in a month, you sure as hell can gain it in a month, and I would be a lot more concerned if our organization wasn’t capable of turning that around and, more importantly, my team with Mike [Bugarewicz, crew chief] and the 14 car.
“We’ve had some pretty crazy stuff happen, but preparation and good decisions and things like that are the people that have the most luck, too. I do realize that. We have to do a better job, clean our act up, and we’ll be just fine. There’s not a concern about being able to get back to where we need to be.”
A crash in Talladega followed Bowyer’s run at Richmond. He finished outside the top 20 at Charlotte; crashed and did not finish at Michigan after getting loose in between Erik Jones and Austin Dillon; and he crashed out again last weekend at Chicago. A blown right rear tire shredded Bowyer’s car and put him behind before retiring with additional issues later in the day.
Going into Kansas on May 11, Bowyer was ninth in the point standings. With nine races to go in the regular season, he is 16th and has just a 15-point advantage on Jones, who is the first driver outside the playoff grid.
Asked if he was going to approach things differently going forward or be more aware of those he’s racing, Bowyer said, “No, no — not at all. We’re not a 16th place team; we’re not a bubble team. I don’t believe that at all. I believe where were [before] was marching forward, and then we hit June and started to jump into massive holes.”
Of the remaining nine tracks, Bowyer has been victorious twice at New Hampshire and once in Michigan. With qualifying canceled at Daytona and the lineup set by the rulebook, he will start 16th. In 27 Daytona starts, Bowyer has 12 top-10 finishes with his best result a second in the July 2017 race.