Clint Bowyer putting Richmond controversy behind him

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After enduring through last fall’s race manipulation controversy at Richmond International Raceway, Clint Bowyer has appeared to put the matter behind him as he returns to “The Action Track.”

NASCAR may have avoided long-term damage following the incident, but Bowyer – whose spin with seven laps remaining in last September’s Richmond race triggered the ruckus – had to deal with a battered reputation in the immediate aftermath.

His Michael Waltrip Racing team also suffered, as they lost major sponsor NAPA and driver Martin Truex Jr. while downsizing to a two-car operation.

But on the eve of the Toyota Owners 400, Bowyer indicated that he was ready to focus on the weekend at hand.

“I’m looking forward to having another good run here and shaking that off from last year,” he said this morning at RIR. “It was a bad deal and I get it.

“This is one of my favorite race tracks. People all across the country ask you where your favorite tracks are and this is first or second on my list.”

As for whether his reputation has improved since last fall, Bowyer believes that his fans have stuck by him.

“Everybody knows me, I love to have fun in this sport, I appreciate the sport and try to give back every chance I get,” he said. “The fan base, Twitter and things like that — I took a beating for awhile, but we weathered that storm, it’s behind us and it’s a lot of fun to interact with those fans whether it’s good or bad.

“It’s all positive interaction as far as I’m concerned because they are talking about our sport.”

Bowyer’s 2014 season has been in his mind, a “peaks and valleys” sort of year so far. Two weeks ago at Darlington, he finished 12th but sent Kurt Busch into the wall when he hit him from behind during the first of two Green-White-Checkered attempts.

The incident didn’t please Busch at all, and Bowyer showed remorse for it this morning.

“There’s only enough room to go about a car width and a half off of [Darlington’s Turn 2] and we were trying to do it three and four-wide and it just doesn’t work out,” Bowyer said. “[I] obviously felt bad and hated that for him…Just a racing deal at the end of those things – Green-White-Checkered with everyone on different strategies, it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Bowyer also noted that he had reached out to Busch but that “you understand the frustration and you put yourself in those shoes – you probably wouldn’t reply back either. It ain’t worth a whole lot.”

Williams confirms Kubica and Sirotkin for Abu Dhabi F1 test

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Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica will enjoy his third Formula 1 test outing with the team at the end-of-season running in Abu Dhabi next week as rumors grow regarding a possible race seat for 2018.

Almost seven years after his last F1 start, Kubica’s remarkable return from severe injuries sustained in a rally accident saw him enjoy two private tests with Renault before completing running with the team in a 2017-spec car in Hungary over the summer.

Reservations over Kubica’s capabilities prompted Renault to pass on giving him a seat, instead opting to hire Carlos Sainz Jr. for next year, only for Williams to become an alternative for the Pole.

Kubica tested a 2014-spec Williams at both Silverstone and the Hungaroring in recent months, and will now sample a 2017 car when he tests at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kubica will share track time with regular Williams racer Lance Stroll and Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin, who has worked with Renault over the past two years but also missed out on a 2018 seat.

“Williams Martini Racing is pleased to confirm it will run Robert Kubica and Sergey Sirotkin for the Abu Dhabi Pirelli tire test, alongside current race driver Lance Stroll,” a statement from the team reads.

“The Pirelli tire test will take place over two days at the Yas Marina circuit during the week following the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“On day one Robert Kubica will drive the FW40 in the morning session, before Lance Stroll takes over in the afternoon.

“On day two Sergey Sirotkin will drive in the morning and afternoon sessions before handing over to Robert in the late afternoon.

“The test is aimed at evaluating 2018 candidate tires on behalf of the Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli.

“Williams is excited to have this opportunity to assess the new tyres across such an interesting range of drivers: Lance, as confirmed race driver for 2018, Robert with his huge experience, and Sergey as a very promising young talent in Formula 1.”

Williams denied earlier this week it has signed Kubica to partner Stroll for 2018, but indications are the deal looks very likely to go ahead, subject to the relevant paperwork and contracts being finalized.