CORNELIUS, N.C. – No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota driver Clint Bowyer enters Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway knowing that winning at the Brickyard would not only be a career highlight, but would also likely punch his ticket to the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

Bowyer’s first season at Michael Waltrip Racing also has been the best of his career. A victory, four top-five finishes, 10 top-10 finishes and holding ninth place in the points standings in 2012 are all career bests after 19 races. Bowyer’s history says he could add to those totals this weekend. He owns two top-five finishes in six career starts at Indianapolis. The MWR team is ninth with a 47-point lead over the 11th-place driver. Only seven races remain before the start of the 10-race Chase.

Bowyer has also enjoyed success away from the track. Last weekend, he hosted his Support Emporia 2012 Charity Event at Emporia Municipal Golf Course in Emporia, Kan. The event raised more than $350,000 to benefit the Emporia Community Foundation through Bowyer’s “79 Fund.”

INDIANAPOLIS: “Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a great and historic racetrack and I love going there and competing. You look at the names of the drivers who have raced on that track and some of the things that have been accomplished on that racetrack in terms of the history of auto racing - it really is a very big deal. I’d love to win at The Brickyard. It would be a career highlight for any driver in any series to be able to win a race there and kiss the bricks.

That said, I’m a stock car racer - and as a NASCAR driver racing with fenders it will always rank second on the list of races that I want to win and tracks that I want to win at. Daytona is the big one for me. Indianapolis is big for the open wheel drivers and the Indianapolis 500 is their big event. The Daytona 500 is our big event - that’s still the race I circle on my calendar each year. That is by no means meant to be disrespectful to a great racetrack and historic venue and I’m not going to try to speak for everyone, but that’s how it is for me.”

CHASE CHANCES: “I think we are in pretty good shape when it comes to the Chase, but I wouldn’t say we are out of the woods by any stretch. We have a small points cushion and a win, and both of those things certainly help. There are a lot of drivers in a similar position.

“We are closer to fourth in points than we are to 11th.That means any of us in a similar situation have a bad week or two and run into some trouble and some of the guys on the outside looking in might win a race and it’s a whole new ballgame. I think it’s going to be a battle for everyone in the top-20 - it’s going to be exciting as we count down the final seven races. Some people are going to take some pretty big chances hoping to get a win and get a wild card. One more win would be a big help for us, but we also have to look at the bigger picture, stay out of trouble and play it smart.”

INTENSITY: “There is just a lot on the line each and every weekend. We’re all out here to win. We are all in that same category and with the same goal in mind. It’s very hard to do. This is the most competitive thing I’ve ever been a part of in any kind of racing – any kind of event – that I’ve ever done in my entire life. It’s unbelievable how close the racing action is on the racetrack and how difficult it is to get the most out of your simulation and engineering program and everything else. It’s hard to get the most out of the people. It’s just very, very tight right now in this sport.”

TEAM CHEMISTRY: “I think it’s key to maintain the level of confidence, the level of comfort that we have with one another. To keep it fun – that’s a big thing. This gets stressful. There is a tremendous amount of pressure that is on a team that’s on the bubble to making the Chase. It’s so important to everything we do: the sponsors, owners and everybody. Everybody is here to give it their all, but they’ve got to make the right decisions and I’ve got to make the right decisions myself. That’s all you can do.”