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.”