No one could blame Clint Bowyer for being a bit frustrated after last night’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, even though he, along with race winner Matt Kenseth, managed to clinch a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Earlier on Saturday, Bowyer had been setting himself up as a potential contender for the victory. After starting 24th, he got past Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the lead at Lap 126 and then led the next 50 laps.
But it all went by the boards after he made contact with a lapped car and was spun out of the lead on Lap 176. A sliding Bobby Labonte then came along and hit Bowyer from the side on the front stretch.
“I felt like we had a shot at winning and then I got spun out there by a lapper of all things,” said Bowyer. “When I got hit up there, it hit that left-front tire and the car never turned the center as good the rest of the night.”
Although he was able to stay on the lead lap, Bowyer was mired in the field once more, which led to his team playing the pit strategy card to get back track position.
The gambit almost worked out, with the Kansas native coming back into the Top 5 again by Lap 350 and then putting himself in second place for a restart with 50 laps to go. But then more bad luck came along as he ran out of fuel on the last lap.
The final outcome for Bowyer was a 14th-place result – a far cry from what he’d been hoping for. And thus, even with the accomplishment of making the Chase for the fifth time in his career, he still felt unfulfilled.
“[The Chase berth] means a lot, but I’m just really disappointed tonight because we had a really good car,” he said. “Absolutely nothing really went our way all night.”
MotorSportsTalk continues its review of the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with a look at Ryan Briscoe. Despite not having a ride to start the year, Briscoe ended strongly courtesy of a series of strong runs at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Ryan Briscoe, No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
- 2014: 11th Place, Best Finish 4th, Best Start 4th, 1 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 12.8 Avg. Start, 10.6 Avg. Finish
- 2015: 18th Place (8 starts), Best Finish 5th, Best Start 2nd, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 10 Laps Led, 17.8 Avg. Start, 12.0 Avg. Finish
For those who slag on Briscoe as being undeserving of top level equipment, his 2015 second half provided a friendly reminder of his overall ability level in what might be less than the best machinery.
Briscoe was thrust into the No. 5 car under trying circumstances to begin with, getting all of an hour’s worth practice replacing the injured James Hinchcliffe ahead of the Indianapolis 500. But subsequent drives on the ovals there, Texas, Fontana, Milwaukee and Iowa – even if the results were less than ideal – showcased a driver determined to show to the paddock he still had it, and then some. His defense against Juan Pablo Montoya in Sonoma was nothing short of brilliant, and courtesy of double points he actually finished ahead of full-season driver Stefano Coletti.
The Australian immediately gelled with the SPM team, engineer Allen McDonald and race strategist Robert Gue. He continues to prove he’s an asset, as he has enjoyed multiple opportunities to extend his career in various arenas of motorsport in both open-wheel and sports cars, the latter of which he won at both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Corvette Racing this year.
Following an early retirement for Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton has closed even more on his third Formula 1 World Championship.
View it above in the race recap from the 2015 Russian Grand Prix.