Bowyer, Keselowski come away with Top-5 days

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After being one of the quicker drivers in practice this weekend, Clint Bowyer (pictured) was hopeful he could capitalize on that speed and take the victory yesterday at Martinsville Speedway.

But while the Michael Waltrip Racing driver was able to pace 60 laps in the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 powered by Kroger, he came up two spots shy of his goal, finishing third after new Chase co-leader Matt Kenseth edged him out for runner-up on the last lap.

“We were good, but we weren’t good enough,” said Bowyer, who was able to move up to sixth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, 55 points behind Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson.

“This has been one of our best tracks. As good as we were in practice, we tried not to mess with it too much and we ended up too tight. I was just too bound up in the center of the corner. No excuses. We ran a good race, we worked hard [and] got my car way better at the end. Just wasn’t good enough.”

Mindful of Kenseth’s bid for the championship, Bowyer made sure to play fair with his Toyota compatriot during their late duel for second behind race winner Jeff Gordon.

“I was pretty gingerly going in [the corner] because I had been loose in and I didn’t want to drive it in any harder than I did getting into three,” Bowyer said. “Because that one point didn’t mean nearly as much as it could have cost him. But a fellow Toyota driver – we owe it to each other to do that, and certainly it wasn’t for the win.

“If it was for the win, he would have probably got out of the way because I’m pretty hungry. But that wasn’t a big deal. [It was] certainly on my mind, yeah.”

Finishing behind Bowyer was Brad Keselowski, who logged a fourth-place result after starting 11th on the grid – his fourth consecutive Top-10 finish at Sprint Cup’s shortest track.

“It was a decent day,” Keselowski said. “It seems like every time we come to Martinsville, we run right in that fourth, fifth, sixth range and I was just trying to break out and get to victory lane, but came up a bit short today.

“It was a solid effort. We were quite a ways off at the start of the race and [crew chief] Paul Wolfe and everybody on the 2 crew dialed us in a little better and got some decent track position there at the end when it counts.”

Keselowski was able to largely avoid trouble on Sunday, which was not an easy feat to do as the yellow flag waved 17 times (still four shy of the Martinsville record).

“You’re not gonna win these races with your car all tore to hell and you’re probably not gonna win these races without putting a scratch on your car, so you’ve got to have a balance of both and mine is probably right where it needs to be,” he said. “We just need a little bit more speed.”

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”