Despite acknowledging some frustration about the manner of his loss to Tony Stewart at Fontana last weekend, Clint Bowyer arrived in Charlotte for this weekend's fifth round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup in an ebullient mood. The Richard Childress Racing driver rebounded from the sting of his penalty following his victory at New Hampshire with another strong outing at Auto Club Speedway, finishing second – although he was leading when a final caution for debris came out that Bowyer felt was dubious.
“It felt good to get that run under our belts with everything that is going on – no crew chief and everything,” Bowyer said. “Scott Miller did a wonderful job of stepping in and obviously Shane [Wilson, his regular crew chief] did a good job of having a great plan for all this mess.
“I don't think we missed a beat with Scott filling in. I was very excited about the way we ran. Obviously, I was frustrated at the end – everybody wants to win and when you get that close you feel like you should have won. I sent Tony a text: ‘I guess we're even now – I stole one from you and you got me back.' I was happy for him. It was a big win for him and we'll go on.”
Bowyer said the California result achieved his aim of putting the New Hampshire controversy behind him.
“Running well last week put a lot of things to bed,” he said. “We've been haywire ever since that whole thing happened. We haven't been in it – had two terrible races in a row and I was just very, very excited about the way we ran. To get some of the naysayers and just the doubt in our minds and everybody else's minds put to bed…
“I really did feel like we needed to win that race, and we do need to win a race. We need to do that for ourselves, for our race team, and just to set the record straight. We're still running up front, we're still capable of running up front. We had a good race here in the spring and I look to do that again here.”
The 150-point penalty all but knocked Bowyer out of the Chase, but he says he's over that and will do all he can to help his RCR teammates in the points race.
“You can't let that bother you. It's over and done with,” Bowyer said. “Your goal, everybody says, has got to be within 150 points in the last race of the championship. But I don't know that I would want to be in that situation going into the banquet. That would be miserable. I would think I'd steal the trophy and run off or something!
“It is what it is; the focus is bringing the championship home for RCR. You want it to be you, but obviously it's looking like that is not going to happen, so Kevin [Harvick]'s our best shot and Jeff [Burton]'s not out of the thing by any means.
“Kevin has done a great job all year long of leading the championship points so I don't think it's a fluke that he is up front and in the running for it right now. If we can work together through practices and things like that to hone in on a good package for Sunday, then that is all it's about. That's why you have multi-car teams, so you can better your program for Sunday.”
Bowyer said he was particularly eager to help Harvick's qualifying efforts, which have lagged this season.
“Our qualifying program has been better than Kevin's pretty much all season long, and we need to get him qualified better,” Bowyer said. “He can't continue to start back there and run with those guys who start up front. We have to be able, as an organization, to qualify better.��
While confident about his own chances at Charlotte this Saturday night, Bowyer indicated that short tracks like Martinsville Speedway, which comes up next week, are dearer to his heart.
“I wish they'd use most of these racetracks for parking lots and build another one inside of them, but that's just a short-tracker from the Midwest talking,” Bowyer joked. “I wish there were more short tracks. Martinsville is one that I used to be scared to death of and I look forward to it every time I go back now.”