No. 33 Team Salvages 21st-Place Finish at Phoenix Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet team pulled out a 21st-place finish after running out of gas in the waning laps of the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International ...
No. 33 Team Salvages 21st-Place Finish at Phoenix
Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet team pulled out a 21st-place finish after running out of gas in the waning laps of the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday.
Bowyer, who dropped one spot in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup point standings to 11th, now trails point leader Denny Hamlin by 434 markers with only one race remaining in the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
On Friday at the one mile tri-oval, the Shane Wilson-led team started the weekend off loose in first practice and made major adjustments in qualifying trim with Bowyer posting the 21st-fastest lap among 49 competitors. Later that day, he turned a lap in the time trials session that was good enough to line up the No. 33 Chevrolet 14th on the starting grid.
For Saturday's two practice sessions, the Emporia, Kan., native posted times good enough for 16th and 29th on the speed charts, respectively. The car was once again very loose, but by the end of practice after completing major adjustments, the team was excited about their chances in the 312-lap event on Sunday.
Race day in Phoenix brought sunny skies and warm temperatures for the estimated crowd of 80,000. Bowyer started the event on the outside of row seven and initial feedback from the driver was that the car was very loose, similar to the previous day's practice sessions.
On lap eight, Bowyer was involved in a small incident on track after two cars made contact with each other in front of him and collected the No. 33 Chevy. With only minor damage to the car, Bowyer continued on the track without coming to pit road. The yellow caution flag the team had hoped for never came out so he dropped back to 32nd position where he stayed until lap 59 when the caution flag was shown for an accident. Bowyer brought the car down to the attention of the Helping Hands crew who put on four fresh Goodyear tires and made major chassis adjustments while trying to fix the damage, primarily on the rear bumper of the car. Wilson called Bowyer back down pit road again under the same caution to analyze the damage more closely and fix any loose parts on the car.
Bowyer went back on track in the 31st position and managed to gain 10 positions over the next 40 laps. The team received a much needed caution on lap 100 to come down pit road, take four tires and fuel, and have the necessary time to make final repairs on the car, setting them up to make a run at their third top-10 finish at Phoenix in as many starts.
The changes and repairs worked as Bowyer improved from 31st to 18th, all while fighting a loose race car that was lacking grip on PIR's weathered surface. Bowyer passed more cars during that green-flag period than any other driver on the track and, eventually, made a scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap168 where slight adjustments were made to tighten the car up. A great pit stop by the over-the-wall crew got Bowyer back out on track in the 17th position.
Bowyer spent the next 55 laps under green running 18th while giving Wilson and the crew valuable feedback about the car. That information enabled the team to make more adjustments on a pit stop under caution on lap 222, getting the car back out on track again in the 17th position.
Great communication between the driver and crew chief led to those adjustments, which brought the No. 33 Chevrolet back to life. Bowyer began picking off cars one by one, eventually cracking the top 15 and getting up to as high as 13th before making the final scheduled pit stop on lap 233 under caution.
The remainder of the race was completed under green-flag conditions. Bowyer, driving a race car covered in black tape from the earlier incident, fought his way up all the way to 11th with five laps remaining. His car then ran out of gas with only four laps to go, killing any chance to salvage a top-10 finish. Bowyer was able to come in, take four tires, and get more fuel and salvaged a 21st-place finish, one lap down.
Carl Edwards scored the victory followed by Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, and Jimmie Johnson. RCR stablemate Kevin Harvick finished sixth while fellow teammate Jeff Burton finished 19th. Harvick, sitting third in points, now trails Hamlin by only 46 markers heading into next weekend's showdown at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
NASCAR's premier division heads to "The Sunshine State" next week for Championship Weekend at the 1.5-mile oval.
CLINT BOWYER: "It was just a long day for the Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet team. We lost a lot of track position early in the race after getting caught up in one of those racing deals and then ran out of gas at the end. We were able to work on the car all day, get it back towards the front, and actually had a top 10 car late in the race. We just didn't come away with the finish we deserved. I am proud of my guys. They worked hard on the car all weekend and deserved better. I am looking forward to the final race next weekend in Homestead and getting back in the top 10 in points."