Clint Bowyer frustrated over late debris cautions at Dover

8 Comments

Already annoyed by having played a role in an earlier incident that took out Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer was further agitated by what he saw as an unnecessary debris caution with six laps remaining in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway.

The Michael Waltrip Racing driver had pitted for two tires under an earlier caution at Lap 361 and was homing in on Brad Keselowski for third when the debris yellow struck.

Bowyer would hang on for a fourth-place finish on the older tires, picking up his second Top-5 finish of the year. However, that didn’t keep him from being frustrated.

“The [two-tire] strategy had us in the contingent to win the race, but unfortunately these cautions keep coming out,” Bowyer told NASCAR.com after the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks.

“We’ve gotta figure something out. You know, that’s about five or six weeks in a row that a mysterious debris caution comes out, and then, lo-and-behold, right after they throw that – wouldn’t you know it – actual debris is on the race track when they could throw it for real.”

He also added that if NASCAR was going to throw such cautions late, then there should be “a rule to where everybody can know about it and strategize around it and a guy can go have a beer in the stands or something.”

Bowyer quickly moved into the Top 5 in the first quarter of the race, but on Lap 124, he moved up in an apparent pass of Busch and made contact with him instead.

Busch went into the outside wall off of Turn 4 and the damage was too much for him to continue. After briefly staying on the track to possibly retaliate against Bowyer, Busch heeded crew chief Dave Rogers’ pleas and went to the garage.

Bowyer also sustained damage in the incident and was knocked back to 24th after pit road repairs. Luckily for him, his car remained stout enough to move back into the Top 10 with 100 laps to go.

He would claim the lead thanks to the two-tire stop on Lap 361 but couldn’t hold it against eventual winner Jimmie Johnson and his fresher tires.

Still, Bowyer held out hope that his fuel mileage would enable him to perhaps steal a win – until the yellow flew with six to go.

“I was saving a lot of fuel and [crew chief Brian] Pattie did a good job of strategizing to be there for the end and unfortunately another debris caution comes out and forces everybody to figure it out from there,” he said.

“Kind of hard to strategize around these races when the facts change.”

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

Follow@KyleMLavigne