Clint Bowyer finishes 9th in fill-in role for ill Elliott Sadler

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It wasn’t the most ideal return to NASCAR Nationwide Series competition for Clint Bowyer.

After replacing an ill Elliott Sadler during qualifying for today’s O’Reilly Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway, Bowyer climbed into Sadler’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota again during the first caution of the 300-mile race.

Crew members pulled Sadler out of the car and as they went to work strapping Bowyer in, cameras caught Sadler move slowly over the inside pit wall before sitting atop it.

He still had his helmet on, but there was no need to see his face in order to realize that he was nowhere near ready to go the full distance.

And so, Bowyer entered the fray, making his first appearance in the NNS since finishing 26th at Daytona in the summer of 2012. But the Kansas native charged from the back of the pack up into the Top 5 in the second half of the race before settling for a ninth-place finish.

“[Sadler’s] done a lot for me in my career, and he’s been a good friend over the years,” Bowyer told ESPN. “I hate to see him sick like that. He was looking pretty rough.

“But the OneMain Toyota was really good. I had a lot of fun out there, but we just got way, way too loose there those last two runs.”

Since Sadler was able to start the race, he gets awarded full points for the result. So, thanks in large part to Bowyer, Sadler was able to maintain his fourth-place standing in the NNS championship at 68 points behind leader Chase Elliott.

Bowyer made steady progress upon entering the race and was up in the Top 15 at a caution near Lap 50. Continued performance and solid pit work eventually enabled Bowyer to get among the leaders; a particularly fruitful stop under a Lap 127 caution helped him jump from seventh to fourth.

But as he alluded to in his post-race comments, a loose condition set in on the No. 11 and caused him to fall out of the Top 10. However, on his final stop of the day, Bowyer got a track bar adjustment as part of his service.

That appeared to be just the ticket for Bowyer, who subsequently made a late run over the final 20-25 laps to get to ninth.

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.