Atlanta II: Clint Bowyer race report

Bowyer, No. 33 Team Gain Points and Finish Seventh at Atlanta HAMPTON, Ga. -- Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet team finished ahead of everyone behind them in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings in Sunday night's Emory ...

Bowyer, No. 33 Team Gain Points and Finish Seventh at Atlanta

HAMPTON, Ga. -- Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet team finished ahead of everyone behind them in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings in Sunday night's Emory Healthcare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, padding their lead as they try to make the 2010 addition of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

With one race remaining before the 12-man Chase field is set, Bowyer remains 12th in championship point standings, 117 markers ahead of Ryan Newman in 13th. If the Shane Wilson-led team finishes 28th or better at Richmond International Raceway, even if Newman leads the most laps and wins the race, they will clinch their spot in NASCAR's version of the playoffs.

The weekend began with two practice sessions on Saturday, both occurring in the late-morning to mid-afternoon hours when the temperatures were at their highest. The Emporia, Kan., native proved the strength of his No. 33 Impala as he recorded the third- and fifth-fastest times, respectively, during those sessions. That afternoon, an early qualifying draw resulted in the 14th starting position for Sunday's 500-mile affair.

The green-flag waved shortly before 8 p.m., local time, in front of an estimated crowd of 93,200 race fans. Bowyer's Chevrolet was fast as the sun was setting behind turns one and two as he cracked the top 10 prior to a lap-48 pit stop, under green-flag conditions. Wilson called for a four tire and fuel stop, along with an air pressure adjustment to aid a loose-handling condition that began as the run progressed.

The long green-flag run continued as the sun began to set, cooling the track and, in turn, further loosening up the BB&T-sponsored machine. Bowyer would fade to 13th prior to the event's first caution flag on lap 134. During this round of pit stops, the No. 33 team made a host of chassis and air pressure adjustments and added four tires and fuel. Bowyer restarted 14th on lap 138, but the loose condition continued to worsen.

Racing action was short lived as the caution flag flew on lap 145, allowing allowed Wilson's seven-man over-the-wall crew to further adjust the No. 33 Chevy and take a better look at potential issues on their car. Upon further inspection, they found that one of the braces that held the right rear quarter panel to the chassis had broke. Upon fixing some of the damage, making adjustments and adding fuel and tires, Bowyer returned to the track 15th for the lap-151 restart.

Over the next 51 laps, Bowyer raced between the 15th and 13th positions, despite struggling with his continuing handling woes. A lap 202-caution allowed for the RCR crew to bolt on four fresh Goodyear Eagles, add fuel and completely fix the broken bracket on two separate visits down pit lane. The lengthy stops resulted in Bowyer restarting 21st on lap 205, but this would pay dividends for two-time NSCS race winner as the run progressed.

Bowyer picked off six positions spots before hitting pit road, in 15th and under green-flag conditions, on lap 252. One final wedge adjustment was made to the burgundy, gold and white colored Chevrolet, along with the addition four tires and fuel. Bowyer would gain three more positions before a lap-265 caution.

The 31-year old driver hit pit road on the ensuing round of pit stops for a four-tire change with no additional adjustments. A lightning-fast stop resulted in the gain of four positions, but with two drivers staying on the track, Bowyer lined up 10th for the lap 275-restart.

Bowyer made his final visit to pit road, while running ninth, on lap 296, under the evening's seventh caution period. Another fast stop netted him two positions as he took the green flag on lap 300. Over the final 25 laps, Bowyer battled between the sixth and eighth positions, eventually taking the checkered flag in seventh place.

Tony Stewart earned his first victory of the season, beating Carl Edwards to the start/finish line by 1.316 seconds. Jimmie Johnson, Bowyer's RCR teammate Jeff Burton and Kyle Busch round out the rest of the top-five finishers. Bowyer's other stablemate, Kevin Harvick, suffered a blown left-front tire with less than 75 laps to go, resulting in a 33rd-place finish.

Next weekend, NASCAR's senior circuit heads to the site of Bowyer's most recent NSCS victory, Richmond International Raceway.

CLINT BOWYER: "This is absolutely what we needed. I tell you what though; it was a hard fought battle. The No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet team kept digging and digging. We were good in the daytime, but as soon as it went to night, we got really, really loose. Our Impala was just way down on grip. Shane Wilson (crew chief) and the boys kept adjusting on it and never gave it. The guys in the pits, they got us back up there where we needed to be with fixing that rear damage and some fast pit stops. It was an overall team effort that led to our finish tonight."

-source: rcr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Kyle Busch