Clint Bowyer says Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Daniel Suarez is “just another guy” as the two fight for the last spot on the playoff grid.
Bowyer is the first driver below the cutline, entering Darlington Raceway (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, NBC) two points behind Suarez. The two swapped positions after Bristol, despite Bowyer placing one spot better in the finishing order than Suarez.
“We would race each other accordingly and take care of business as far as our company and Stewart-Haas goes, but that’s one of the cars we’re racing for a spot,” said Bowyer. “Hopefully, we’ll do the right thing and get both of those cars in, and both be competing for a championship.”
Suarez did not make the playoffs in his previous two NASCAR Cup Series seasons, and is in the best position he’s been to turn that around. His mindset is like that of his teammate, agreeing that Bowyer is just another competitor.
“Once we’re in the race, yes,” said Suarez. “Obviously, in the garage area and in practice, we try to help each other, and we talk a lot during practices and stuff like that just to try to [help] each other to get better. But once we’re on the racetrack, it’s every man for himself. That’s normal.
“He’s trying to battle for his spot, and I’m trying to battle for mine. Obviously, the hope is we both make it , but I’m taking care of myself.”
Despite their position, Suarez feels it’s realistic to hope that both SHR cars can make the postseason. Ahead of Suarez is Ryan Newman, who has 14 points on the cutline.
“I think it’s very realistic,” Suarez said. “Anything can happen. We have stage points and two races that are pretty crazy, so anything can happen.”
Bowyer will start 13th in what has been a work-in-progress season for he and the No. 14 Ford team. They have, so far, failed to back up their two wins from a year ago, and Bowyer admits that while a driver can’t get down, it does get frustrating.
When the 2018 postseason began, all four SHR cars were a part of it. The organization had four of the eight drivers in the penultimate playoff round.
“Make no mistake, I come here to kick their asses,” said Bowyer with a laugh, “and when you don’t, you’re frustrated and disappointed.”
As for Suarez, he’s been confident in his speed all weekend. Suarez out-qualified Bowyer as his No. 41 Ford will start fifth, and he believes he’ll be better than what the stat sheet has shown for him here the last two years.
“We have had the speed, we just have failures or tires and stuff like that that on paper we look horrible, but as a driver, I feel much better than (that),” said Suarez. “So I feel pretty good about it. Yesterday we showed we have very good speed, and I think we’re going be the same thing in qualifying, and hopefully keep that for tomorrow night.”