It’s been 51 races – Charlotte in October 2012 – since Clint Bowyer last went to victory lane in a Sprint Cup event.
While he didn’t win in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, Bowyer took a step in the right direction, finishing third.
It was his best finish thus far in this season’s first 10 races and his first top-five showing since the 2013 season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway.
With the Sprint Cup Series heading to Bowyer’s home track of Kansas Speedway this Saturday night, a place he’s still looking for his first career win at, Sunday’s finish at ‘Dega was a step in the right direction towards breaking the longest winless streak of Bowyer’s career.
When asked if his showing was a combination of gratification for coming so close, yet also frustration for still not breaking through for a win, Bowyer admitted to mixed emotions.
“Any time you finish on the podium at Talladega you’re somewhat excited but any time you’re that close to the front and taking that checkered flag, it’s pretty easy to get greedy in this sport,” Bowyer said. “It’s kind of just a little bit of both.”
This is a crucial year for Bowyer, who leaves Talladega climbing from 20th to 18th in the standings. Not only is the winless streak ever-present in his mind, he’s also in the final year of his contract with Michael Waltrip Racing.
While it’s likely Bowyer will re-sign with MWR for another three years at some point, he also has to worry about making the Chase for the expanded and revamped Sprint Cup.
If he could put together a season like he did in his first season at MWR – 2012, when he won a single-season career high of three races and ultimately finished second in the overall standings to Brad Keselowski – it would certainly help Bowyer’s leverage when it comes to signing on the dotted line.
Bowyer and Greg Biffle were chasing eventual winner Denny Hamlin on the final lap at Talladega when a wreck occurred behind them. It left both Bowyer and Biffle befuddled of sorts: do they race hard to try and overtake Hamlin, or do they wait and anticipate a yellow caution, thus freezing them in their respective spots on the track?
It was the latter, as it turned out.
“Long day, long race, but it’s all about being there at the end,” Bowyer said. “The only way I know to guarantee myself and my team that I can at least give them a chance is to be patient and be boring, lead a boring race there for a while and then go for broke at the end.
“We did that, we got up in position and everything was going right, and it’s just like Greg said, you’re kind of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
Still, a season-best third-place finish is significantly better than all of the other finishes Bowyer has had this season, especially his 43rd-place DNF at Richmond last week.
“Blew three tires and burnt the car to the ground – it was a pretty crummy weekend,” Bowyer said. “(I’m glad) to get things turned back around on a positive note.
“I just told Rob (Kauffman, MWR team co-owner), my boss, I turned to him and looked at all three of his cars (Bowyer in third, Brian Vickers in fourth and team co-owner Michael Waltrip in 25th) sitting out here and I said, ‘Did you really just finish Talladega with not a scratch on all three cars? That’s pretty lucky.”
Now if only that luck can continue Saturday in Kansas.
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