Bowyer Battling to the End

Clint Bowyer

Clint Bowyer trails Jimmie Johnson by 36 points heading into this weekend. (Photo: Getty Images)

Clint Bowyer’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship hopes are slipping away but the Michael Waltrip Racing driver is still enjoying his first season with the team.

Bowyer trails Jimmie Johnson by 36 points heading into this weekend’s AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix Int’l Raceway, the next to last race of the season. He admits that’s a huge deficit to overcome in a short period of time, but remains focused on simply running well the rest of the season.

“I’ve said this all along -- it’s fun to be racing for the championship, but I’m more proud of where we’re at contending for that championship, winning three races our first year together as a group,” said Bowyer. “Got a long time to work. We just keep polishing the edges and keep getting better fixing our program week in and week out. We’ll be there.”

Despite consistently finishing near the front of the field, Bowyer keeps slipping in the title picture thanks to Johnson and Brad Keselowski running even better. Bowyer’s sixth-place effort at Texas last Sunday was a case in point, as he lost ground thanks to the top two in the standings finishing first and second.

You keep having these top-10 runs and flirting with the top-fives week in and week out and unless you’re winning these races every week, you just can’t gain points,” said Bowyer. “Even if we were winning right now, it ain’t enough to run them down for a championship. We’re having fun. We’re just taking it week by week. I thought they (Johnson and Keselowski) were going to wreck each other, but they didn’t. It would have been awesome -- I really did think they were going to wreck each other.”

MWR’s Director of Competition Scott Miller echoes Bowyer’s sentiments. In his first year with the team since coming over from Richard Childress Racing, Miller is proud of the entire organization’s effort and the way Bowyer has challenged for the crown.

“We just have to do what we can do,” said Miller. “We certainly don’t want to wish bad luck on anybody, but for us to be able to close the gap in this deal it’s going to take some good performances by us and some bad luck from both of the other two guys in front of us. That isn’t highly likely, but we’ll do our part to keep trying to be competitive. Even if we aren’t able to close the deal and get the big one at the end, it’d be nice to win one of these last two. We’ll be shooting for that. Everybody’s spirits are still high around here, so we’ll keep on showing up and trying to do our best.”

Bowyer and teammate Martin Truex Jr. both made the Chase to give MWR its first representation in the playoffs. That accomplishment, in addition to the performance of the team’s No. 55 entry, which was driven primarily by Mark Martin with Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip also sharing time behind the wheel, has been one of the season’s most pleasant surprises.

But Miller does see one downfall in the team’s 2012 success.

“We won’t sneak up on anybody next year – and that’s a good spot to be in,” Miller said with a smile. “Hopefully we can hold up our end of the bargain and come back next year as strong as ever, compete for wins and a championship. That’s what we strive to do every day.”

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