No. 33 Team Salvages 17th-Place Finish after Late-Race Incident at Daytona
After leading 11 times for 31 laps and being involved in a late-race incident with only four laps remaining, Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet team salvaged a 17th-place finish in the 53rd running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Rolling off the starting grid in the sixth position, Bowyer immediately hooked up with Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton and the two drivers found themselves a mainstay in the top 10 for the first part of the "Great American Race" until the caution flag flew on lap 29 for the infamous "big one". Bowyer and Burton were then joined by RCR stablemate Paul Menard, who pushed Bowyer to lead his first lap of the day. The three RCR Chevrolets continued to run up front until Burton's car retired near the halfway point after suffering engine problems. After that, Bowyer and Menard stayed close together in the running order and bounced throughout the top 15 until finally finding the right combination and working their way through the field, where the Emporia, Kan., native led a majority of laps. The two drivers were separated on the track and shuffled back throughout the field joining other competitors in three-wide packs. Bowyer worked his way back to the front with the help of the No. 18 car and, with only four laps to go, made a move on the outside for the lead while running third. However, contact between three cars in the inside lane caused a massive pileup on the backstretch of the 2.5-mile superspeedway, severely damaging the No. 33 car and eliminating any chances of bringing home the 2011 Harley J. Earl trophy. The Helping Hands pit crew managed to repair the car and get it back out for the last three laps of the event without losing a lap to the leaders, salvaging a 17th-place finish.
CLINT BOWYER: "What can you say? It was just one of those racing deals. We had one of the best cars out there today and got caught up in someone else's mess. To tell you the truth, I still don't know what happened. It was all so fast. Shane (Wilson, crew chief) called a great race today and, once again, we were right there at the end."