Bowyer, MWR still pressing on despite distractions

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Clint Bowyer hasn’t factored into the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup this year, which to most fans is probably justice, given the way the regular season ended with Bowyer’s caution-causing spin at Richmond creating a firestorm of controversy in the sport.

Still, despite everything that happened that night and the proverbial “ripple effect” it’s had on the Michael Waltrip Racing organization, Bowyer says the team has developed a good game plan to weather the storm.

“I don’t know if everyone’s at a good place, but I guess the biggest thing is we have a good game plan,” Bowyer said Monday in a media teleconference. “You’ve got to be able to come up with a goal, set goals, come up with a plan of where do we go from here? Certainly, man, it’s been a day-by-day thing.  No more than I felt like we were turning the corner of trying to get past what happened in Richmond, and Brian (Vickers) out of the blue comes up with his illness.  It was like ‘Oh, my God, not again.’ When does it stop?

“But, nonetheless, very proud, to be honest with you, of where we’re at considering all the circumstances,” he added. “I mean, we’re sixth in points. With all the distractions, all of the melees that have been going on with our organization, it just seems like it would have been very easy to get your eye off the ball and lose focus and not even completely be a factor at all.”

Here’s the recap of what has happened: Bowyer’s spin led to all three MWR cars getting docked 50 driver and owner points, which kicked Martin Truex Jr. out of the Chase, which eventually led to NAPA leaving Truex’s team, and eventually led to the team downsizing to two full-time cars for 2014 with some staff reductions.

“We’ve sure learned a lot this year, but I think all of those mistakes and occurrences will only make you stronger in the future,” Bowyer admitted. “I mean, the setback of losing Martin Truex, he’s not only a good teammate, he’s a good friend. I’ve known him for a long time and we’ve battled back and forth in the Nationwide days. Not having him around me is tough.”

Bowyer attempted to put a positive spin on the team going to two cars.

“We’ve got a great game plan of scaling back to two cars and focusing on that,” he said. “I mean, make no mistake, the team that won the championship last year only had two cars so this can be done. Two-car organizations can work. I’m glad that they made the decision before we really tried to make three cars work and didn’t have the means to do it. Definitely make sure that you are hitting on all these cylinders with what you have and making the most of what you have. I think that’s what we’re moving towards and our game plan.”

Bowyer has one more year remaining on his contract, and also one year left with 5-Hour Energy, which has announced it will stay another year.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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