Sprint Cup star Clint Bowyer is in a unique spot as the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.
Bowyer, driver of the No. 15 Toyota, has no ride secured for the 2016 season despite making the Chase six times and being one of the sport's most popular drivers. Michael Waltrip Racing is ceasing operations after this season and Bowyer is in search of a ride for next year.
But instead of lament about his future, Bowyer is using the Chase as both an audition and a chance to send his team out in a high note.
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"Once you get in the car you do the best you can, you give it 100 percent each and every lap, each and every opportunity," Bowyer said. "This is that much more meaningful knowing the end of MWR is going to be at the end of the year. It's the last chance to compete with this group that I like and I've enjoyed so much. We're going to go out there and give it our all and hopefully make some noise and have some fun."
Bowyer was in Dallas Tuesday as part of the Chase nationwide driver promotion. He spent the afternoon surprising Texas Motor Speedway fans who expected to be part of a commercial for the track but instead got to see Bowyer.
Bowyer would like to be a surprise driver in the Chase as well. It's been a tough season for him, as he went winless with just two top-five finishes and 11 top 10s. But Bowyer knows what happened in the regular season means little once the playoffs begin.
"There's nothing more dangerous in sports than momentum," Bowyer said. "That's the crazy thing about this Chase. This is the worst year I've had in my career and we're only a few points out of the lead with a new shot at doing what the goal was at the beginning of the year. It doesn't matter anymore what our regular season was like or had as bad of a year we had. This is a new opportunity, a new crack of the bat and we're going for it."
One of the reasons Bowyer still has confidence is that there's no clear-cut favorite in the Chase this year. Eleven different drivers have wins this season, but no one has won more than four times.
Handicapping the Chase is difficult and Bowyer, who finished second to Brad Keselowski in the 2012 Chase, would like to muddy the waters by putting his car into the mix. He'd like to still be in the picture when the series hits TMS Nov. 8 for the AAA Texas 500, which is part of the Eliminator 8 round of the Chase.
If he gets to Texas still alive, Bowyer has ten top 10s and TMS and could further enhance his championship chances.
Despite everything that's happened this season, he thinks he and his motivated team can do just that.
"A team that's been dominant all year long or really consistent at the front is one bad slipup or one bad weekend and you're done," he said. "You're not going to make up that deficit because everybody else has been settled in or consistent themselves. That's why I think you say a shakeup and it's so hard to handicap the Chase. One slip up normally that doesn't show up in a regular season shows up big-time in a three-race format."
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