Strong Run in Coca-Cola 600 Puts Bowyer Back in Chase Battle CONCORD, N.C. -- Clint Bowyer, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Sunday, is back in the thick of the Chase for the Sprint Cup battle following a seventh-place finish in the...
Strong Run in Coca-Cola 600 Puts Bowyer Back in Chase Battle
CONCORD, N.C. -- Clint Bowyer, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Sunday, is back in the thick of the Chase for the Sprint Cup battle following a seventh-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper team climbed two spots, to 13th, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings and sits a mere four points outside the coveted top 12 with 13 races remaining before the Chase begins.
The Shane Wilson-led team kicked off the weekend by posting the 22nd-fastest time in Thursday's opening practice session. Bowyer qualified 10th later that afternoon, but it wasn't until the two final practice sessions where the No. 33 team proved the strength of the Richard Childress Racing-prepared machine. Bowyer & Company posted the eighth- and sixth-fastest times, respectively, in Saturday's duel practice sessions and left the track confident with their race set up.
Sunday's 400-lap race is the NSCS' longest event of the season where patience and track position are key factors in a solid run. Those factors, along with quick pit work by the Helping Hands over-the-wall crew and a fast No. 33 Impala, were instrumental in keeping Bowyer inside the top 10 for the majority of the 600-mile endurance race. In fact, the only time the No. 33 Chevy had been scored outside the top 10 was when the field cycled through the order following green-flag and yellow-flag pit stops.
In the opening 200 laps, the two-time NSCS race winner raced between the 10th and second positions. A lap-214 caution saw the leaders make a visit to pit road, with Bowyer entering pit lane in second. A lightning-fast pit stop by the No. 33 pit crew netted the Cheerios/Hamburger Helper driver one position and he returned to the track at the point.
Although Bowyer led the field to the lap-217 restart, he began to battle a tight-handling condition on his bright yellow, red and black Impala. Over the next 84 circuits he dropped to fourth prior to a lap-302 caution.
Wilson and Bowyer decided that a four-tire pit stop, under the ensuing caution period, with slight air pressure and chassis adjustments, was their best bet at alleviating their minor handling issue. Nine other competitors elected to take just right-side tires, placing Bowyer 10th for the lap-306 restart.
The four-tire decision, along with the adjustments, allowed for the 31-year old driver to pick off three positions prior to the event's eighth and final caution on lap 378. During the final round of pit stops, three cars elected not to pit, while every other driver, including Bowyer, took on right-side tires. The No. 33 Chevrolet took the final green-flag restart ninth on lap 381.
Over the final 19 laps, Bowyer picked off two positions and tried to reel in Jeff Gordon's No. 24 Chevy for the sixth spot, but came up a little short as he crossed the finish line in seventh. It was the No. 33 team's seventh top-10 finish of the season.
Kurt Busch earned his second victory of the 2010 season, completing the Charlotte sweep following his win in last weekend's Sprint All-Star Race. Jaime McMurray, Kyle Busch, Mark Martin and David Reuitmann rounded out the rest of the top-five finishers.
Bowyer's RCR teammates Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton finished 11th and 25th, respectively, and currently sit first and eighth, respectively, in the NSCS championship point standings.
Next weekend, NASCAR's senior circuit heads north for its first of two stops at Pocono Raceway.
CLINT BOWYER: "I'm proud of everyone on the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet team. We unloaded fast and kept it up all weekend long. The boys in the pits were on it tonight and gained us spots on every stop. I tried to catch Jeff Gordon there at the end, but just came up a little short. It was a solid points day for us entering the summer months as we try and lock ourselves into the top 12 before the Chase begins."