After the dust settled on last night’s Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, noted motorsport journalist Lewis Franck made the following observation:
Indeed, one year after helping to trigger Michael Waltrip Racing’s race manipulation scandal at Richmond International Raceway, Bowyer is set to return to “The Action Track” as a center of attention once again.
It’s attention that he could do without.
Bowyer finished 38th last night after having to go to the garage early with a broken shifter, which led to a transmission replacement and more than 20 laps lost.
Now down 23 points to Greg Biffle for the 16th and final Chase Grid position, Bowyer may need a “Hail Mary” of his own like that of Atlanta winner Kasey Kahne in order to make the post-season.
“It seems like if it weren’t for bad luck, we wouldn’t have any luck,” Bowyer said last night. “We’ve been good at Richmond but we are going to have to have a really good finish, if not a win, to make it into the Chase.”
He makes an important point there, as Bowyer’s won twice in his Cup career on the 3/4-mile RIR bullring.
But his Atlanta problems again emphasize how disastrous late-season mishaps can be for those like him that are on the Chase bubble.
Take Kyle Larson, for example. Going into Michigan three races ago, Larson was +9 points over the cutoff at 15th on the Chase Grid.
Then he crashed just before the midway point of that race and finished dead last, 43rd place. Larson promptly dropped out of the Grid to 19th, at -24 points behind the cutoff.
And with 16th place Greg Biffle on a perfectly-timed run of Top-10 finishes (his 10th-place result last night was his fifth Top-10 in a row), Larson’s solid results of 12th at Bristol and eighth in Atlanta have done nothing to close the deficit – which is again at 24 points with only Saturday’s regular season finale at RIR to go.
“[A] Top‑10 is not bad, but it doesn’t really matter anymore because Kasey won,” Larson said. “So happy for Kasey, but that pretty much ends our Chase hopes unless we win.”
And if neither Bowyer or Larson can get a win in the Commonwealth of Virginia, they’ll clearly know how, when, and where things went wrong for them.