Clint Bowyer’s analysis of his Race One performance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup: Just OK.
He realizes that sort of effort won’t work in the long run, and he’s looking for more this weekend as the playoffs move on to New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Sunday’s Sylvania 300. NHMS is basically a big “short” track, and that’s to Bowyer’s liking.
"I look at the short tracks and think the best opportunity to win races is on those short tracks,” he said. “We did OK in Chicago – not great, but just OK. New Hampshire – we have a pretty damn good roll going to New Hampshire.
“I think we can win at New Hampshire and get things started off right. If we can do that and keep this buzz going at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing), I think we can compete. The 1.5-mile tracks – I've never won on one of those. I know that and everybody else does. I have to pick up my game on the 1.5-mile tracks, but we've been running better than I ever have with these MWR cars on that type of track. I think if I ever could win on those, it would be in the Chase in the last 10 races.
“If I can do that with the success I have on the short tracks, again we can be a force to be reckoned with."
Bowyer is tied for fourth in Chase points entering Loudon.
Bowyer was 10th at Chicagoland last week, with six laps led. He was in the mushy middle most of the day.
“It just wasn’t a good day,” Bowyer said. “I don’t know whether it was strategy or pit stops or what, but it seemed like we lost spots on pit road all day, and it just cost us. You ain’t going to win a championship with decent days. You have to have good days.”
And Bowyer has had those sort of days at New Hampshire, where he owns two wins – both in the fall race. He led 222 laps in winning in 2007 and led 177 in a 2010 victory.
Another top finish Sunday would put Bowyer solidly in the mix for a title run.
“If you're in that top five running with three or four to go, you have a shot at the championship, and I believe we can do that,” Bowyer said. “We have some good race tracks, and I've always been able to go into the Chase full of enthusiasm, full of excitement, full of pride and never any worry in that sense.
“Never have I gone into the Chase concerned about anything. It’s blue sky, full speed ahead and anything from here on out -- we've won races for my sponsors, we've made the Chase for my sponsor -- we've done all our goals and the last goal is the championship.
“Everybody knows that everything has to line up perfectly to win the championship, but this could be the year. This is the best I've ever run leading into the Chase. I've always been able to elevate my game in the Chase, keep it fun and keep it real for the guys, and if we continue to do that, we'll have a chance."
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.