Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez (photo above) entered the weekend separated by just six points for the final spot on the playoff grid.
After 500 laps at Bristol the gap is now two points. But the Stewart-Haas Racing drivers have swapped positions.
Bowyer rebounded from a Lap 244 spin to finish seventh in the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He did not score any stage points.
“It’s short-track racing,” said Bowyer. “You’re making split-second decisions. I was trying to pass those two cars and get some more stage points for us, and I clipped him. It wasn’t nothing he did, I was just trying to shoot the gap and I had a run on those guys and was trying to do all I could do.
“We had a good race,” Bowyer continued. “We were too loose. I needed more rear grip all night long — that’s probably the loosest I’ve ever been here. We kind of fought front turn all weekend long and was trying to make up for it with wedge out and track bar up, stuff like that, and it just hurts rear grip.
“All in all, it was a good weekend for us. It was kind of a rebound weekend and what we needed, but you can’t expect those guys to just lay over for you. We did all we could do. I was hoping to be a top-five car, and when you’re a top-five car here you’ve got a chance to win; but were just a beat off of that all night.”
At the time of the spin, Bowyer was running 11th and trying to chase down Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for 10th and a stage point. Bowyer immediately came over the radio and admitted it was his fault that he spun off the nose of Quin Houff.
Bowyer’s caution set up a strategy play where Suarez jumped inside the top 10 for the dash to the end of Stage 2. Suarez ended up finishing second and bagged nine points.
“I feel like that was probably the biggest thing of the day,” said Suarez. “That was an amazing call from my crew chief Billy Scott and I’m proud of that call. We have to just keep making those decisions.”
Suarez finished eighth.
“The racing was fun,” he said. “All in all, it was a pretty solid day for the 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang. I feel like we had a top-10 car the entire weekend, and that’s pretty much where we ran. We had some ups and downs on pit road and had some mistakes there as well as some electrical issues — lucky we were able to continue to finish the race with the battery — but overall I’m proud of my team.
“Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going in the next few weeks.”