Champions' Week Thursday report

Champions' Week Thursday report
Nov 21, 2008, 8:58 PM

NASCAR Nationwide Series 2008 Champions' Week Media Day * Third Time's A Charm For Driver Champion Clint Bowyer * Teamwork Propels Joe Gibbs Racing's NASCAR Nationwide Series Program ORLANDO, Fla. (Nov. 21, 2008) -- Clint Bowyer wasn't going to ...

NASCAR Nationwide Series 2008 Champions' Week Media Day
* Third Time's A Charm For Driver Champion Clint Bowyer
* Teamwork Propels Joe Gibbs Racing's NASCAR Nationwide Series Program

ORLANDO, Fla. (Nov. 21, 2008) -- Clint Bowyer wasn't going to let this one get away. After two unsuccessful attempts at a NASCAR Nationwide Series championship, Bowyer was determined to finish on top in 2008.

"Man, it feels great," Bowyer said during NASCAR Nationwide Series Champions' Week Media Day at the ESPN Club at Disney's BoardWalk. "We tried twice and came up short and to finally get it done and have your name on that championship trophy means a lot."

Bowyer was runner-up to Martin Truex Jr. in 2005 and finished third in the standings in 2006. The close finishes did more to inspire Bowyer than discourage him.

"I love championships," said Bowyer. "I've won several of them and I enjoy points racing; I enjoy having a goal to chase after all year. If you're not racing for a championship, you're just racing with no cause."

Bowyer's cause has been evident all season. After a disappointing 25th-place finish in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, Bowyer rattled off 18 top-10 finishes over the next 20 races, including eight top fives. He took the standings lead from two-time series champion Kevin Harvick after Nashville, the sixth race of the season, and never looked back.

Bowyer's lead over second place grew to as many as 207 points with seven races to go before eventual runner-up Carl Edwards went on a late season tear. Edwards, the 2007 series champion, finished the season with nine straight top-five finishes, including wins in three of the last four races.

"It would've stunk to lose it," Bowyer said. "To lead that thing the way we did, with a comfortable 200-point margin most of the season and then all of a sudden that last month, the panic came on. It was nerve-racking."

Despite the championship, Bowyer had his share of disappointments during the season. He finished with one victory, but felt like he let three others slip through his hands.

"I gave two up and had one taken from me," Bowyer declared, referring to races at Nashville Superspeedway, Bristol Motor Speedway and Memphis Motorsports Park.

In the end, Bowyer and crew chief Dan Deeringhoff held on to the championship by a mere 21 points, the fourth-closest margin in series history. While the duo knew that other teams were gaining on them as the year closed, they stuck to their game plan.

"We didn't have the speed that we needed there at the end," Bowyer said. "Everybody was getting better at their game, but we were just sticking to our guns with what got us there. I still think that is what won us this championship."

Teamwork carries JGR to owner's title ... A good crew chief used to be defined by his work under the hood of a car. Today, it's the ability to work with different people and personalities that can make or break a team's fortunes. Dave Rogers, crew chief of the No. 20 Toyota, knew that his people skills would be put to the test in 2008 when Joe Gibbs Racing decided to use a collection of drivers to pilot the car rather than one. Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano each won at least one race for Rogers, who carried the team to the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series owner championship. "It was a very unique experience," Rogers said. "Of course, we were blessed with four very talented drivers which made it a lot easier. They all had different needs and different wants and they all brought their different personalities to the table."

Despite the rotation of drivers, Rogers credits the entire JGR team for pulling together for their first series title. A professional relationship with Jason Ratcliff, crew chief for JGR's No. 18 Toyota, eventually blossomed into a strong friendship. The two worked together to build the JGR NASCAR Nationwide Series program into one of the strongest in the sport.

"We do everything together and make every decision together and it helps us," Rogers said of working with Ratcliff. "If Jason gives me something I can work on it and maybe make it a little better, then I can give it back to him and he works on it a little bit and makes it better and we just keep building that way. I think that was the key to us not becoming stagnant."

Rogers guided the No. 20 team to nine victories, 16 top fives and 26 top 10s. Not to be outdone, Ratcliff led the No. 18 team to 10 wins, 16 top fives and 18 top 10s in 21 races.

"We always make sure our race cars are the same," Rogers said. "We don't deviate from team to team. At any given moment I can take an 18 car and put a 20 on the side of it and call it my race car and know what I have."

Fast Facts

What: NASCAR Nationwide Series Awards Banquet
Where: Tuscan Ballroom, Portofino Bay Hotel, Orlando, Fla.
When: 7-10:30 p.m. ET. Saturday, Nov. 22
TV: ESPN2, 12-1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Nov. 30

-credit: nascar

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