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.

Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s INDYCAR race was postponed until Monday

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Here’s what several drenched drivers had to say after Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was postponed until Monday morning (11:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, 2017 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner, 2018 pole winner): “It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us. We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show. So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that. But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then, it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much. There was too much puddling and pooling of water on every straightaway. Then the rivers started flowing, high-speed compressions in Turns 1 and 2, fast corner, 12 and 13, fast corner where the river starts to form. Just tough. I mean, look, we love racing in the rain. It’s got nothing to do with not wanting to run in the rain, not being able to do that. It’s that this type of track with this water level was too much to race today. We’ve run here in the rain before, but it intensified to the point where you’re starting to get in a situation where it’s going to take it out of the drivers’ hands. What happened with Will (Power), I don’t think is a driver error. I don’t know how anyone is going to drive hydroplaning on the front straightaway. I think you would have had that for the rest of the track, too. A tough situation. Thanks for the fans that came out and supported us. Hopefully we’ll get some people back tomorrow and we’ll get the show in and put on a great event.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):
“Tough day so far. We had some problems with our radio and fuel alarm, but otherwise the car was alright. It was just too dangerous out there, we couldn’t see anything, so I think they made the right call. Hopefully we’ll have a good race tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s just a real shame for everyone on the Verizon Chevy team. The car was good and we were doing our best out there, but it was really hard to see anything in front of me. The conditions were just so bad. As soon as I got to the frontstraight, the car just came around, and I tried to keep it off the wall, but it was hydroplaning and there was nothing I could do. I feel bad for the team and for the fans in this weather. Just too bad. Hopefully our luck can turn around when we get to Indianapolis.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Very difficult day for us. In the race we were 13th at the time and we had some electrical issues, so that caused us to pit and we lost a lap. Not the ideal situation, but we don’t give up. There’s still a race tomorrow and we’re going to go for the most points. Anything can happen.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “It was a tough beginning, but when we kind of got going it was OK and kind of fun to challenge for a while, but visibility was a major issue today, no doubt. I’m glad that the series postponed it. I would have like to get it in today, but that’s life. We will go racing tomorrow.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Kerauno / MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): “I think definitely the right decision was made to red flag the race. It’s a very difficult position for everyone to be in. It’s never the result that you want, but safety is obviously a priority. I think everyone did a good job considering the conditions of looking out for each other. Not being able to see is not doing anybody any good. It is hard for everyone, but glad that we’re all in one piece and try again later.

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “As you could see on TV, if you couldn’t see the car, it was probably three times worse in the cockpit on the main straight or any straight. You had to completely trust the guys that they were accelerating. Never the less, I made good progress on the short stint and I made up a few positions.  The car was working well, but also was aquaplaning a lot, too, so I have to respect INDYCAR’s decision for everyone’s safety. Now we really need to concentrate on having a good car for tomorrow. I’m sorry for the fans that sat in rain all day, but thank them for their support.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet): “It was a short day. In the beginning the conditions were not that good, but afterwards the conditions started to improve. The race was stopped, then restarted, and I think the conditions were not too bad at that point. Unfortunately, it was red flagged again and then cancelled for the day. It would have been nice to get halfway, but we will come back and try again tomorrow.”