Clint Bowyer says he remembers when he was racing Late Models that when one car took out another car on a restart, the driver that got taken out typically retaliated.
Bowyer relived those days Saturday in the Nationwide Series’ Heluva Good! 200 at Dover International Speedway.
Running second when he was spun by Denny Hamlin on a restart with two laps remaining in the scheduled distance, Bowyer went to pit road and, after a brief red-flag period, returned to the track and turned Hamlin while the race was under caution.
NASCAR promptly parked Bowyer for the remainder of the event.
“I wasn’t pleased that my car got torn up and I didn’t want to have to do that,” Bowyer said. “It’s the guys [on this team], they’ve been struggling. Frustration comes out. The last two or three months they’ve been coming home with wrecked race cars and finally were coming home with a good finish.
“I don’t have any beef with Denny. We get along fine. … Racing Late Models coming up through my career … if I wrecked somebody on the restart liked that, they come back and crash me exactly like that. It was pretty much tit for tat.”
Perhaps because neither driver runs full time in the Nationwide Series, there was no anger over the loss of valuable positions. But Hamlin, while understanding why Bowyer got into him, was perturbed that he was spun while running second under the caution because NASCAR doesn’t return drivers to their original position under such circumstances.
“The fact is that you don’t get your spot back,” Hamlin said. “It makes it if you don’t want somebody to win, you can spin them out if your day is already done. You can work that into teammates in [Sprint] Cup for a championship, just spin the guy and he loses the spot.
“That’s what is crazy about it. … He knows that there’s nothing that can happen to him in a Nationwide car.”
NASCAR officials met with Bowyer following the race. NASCAR, which instituted a new policy this year to allow drivers to show more emotion on the track, has issued three-week probations to drivers involved in similar incidents this year.
“[They said] you’re not supposed to do that,” said Bowyer, who apologized for his actions. “We’re professionals and we’re supposed to be out there putting on a show for the fans and not carrying on [like] that.”
Hamlin, running third at the time, said he did not intentionally get into Bowyer on the restart. Bowyer lined up front of him when leader Kyle Busch chose the outside lane for the restart.
“I just barely clipped him,” Hamlin said. “That is just part of it. He was spinning his tires real, real bad and I barely clipped him.”
Bowyer wasn’t sure if he spun the tires, but said being on the inside of the leader on the restart means you might not see when he mashes the gas as quickly as those drivers behind the front row.
“I don’t know,” Bowyer said. “We all were on old tires. … When you’re a third- or fourth-place car, you can lag back a little bit and get a run anticipating that [restart]. When you’re on the inside, you have to stay door-to-door and when he goes, you have to react as fast as you can. It was just one of those things. You go on.”
So was Hamlin too aggressive on the restart?
“I don’t know,” Bowyer said as he left the garage after the meeting with NASCAR officials. “I’m over it. I was over it 30 minutes ago.”