Bowyer Happily Heads to Richmond

C.Bowyer

Bowyer's a two-time winner at Richmond International Raceway and will seek a third victory there on Saturday night in the Toyota Owners 400. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Quick: Four drivers have combined to win the last eight races at Richmond International Raceway.  Can you name them?

Denny Hamlin is an easy one.  He’s won twice at his home track.  So has his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, who's won the past four spring races there.  Kevin Harvick has a victory during this stretch.  And the other one?

Did you remember Clint Bowyer?  He won last fall’s race.  It was his second career victory on the three-quarter-mile oval.  The first one, in 2008, is memorable because of a late crash between Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as they battled for the lead.  That created the opening for Bowyer to score what was his second career Sprint Cup Series victory.

Bowyer goes into Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 with five top-10 finishes in his last seven Richmond starts.  Since that 2008 victory, he's finished worse than 12th only twice at RIR.

"Once you win at a racetrack, every time you go back there after that there's always something you can carry in," Bowyer said.  "We had a solid top-five run at Kansas (last weekend), and have a little extra boost of confidence and momentum rolling into a track that's really good for me."

Bowyer has been at his best on tracks of a mile or less in length this season.  He was sixth at Phoenix International Raceway, fifth at Bristol Motor Speedway and second at Martinsville Speedway.  Since joining Michael Waltrip Racing last year, Bowyer has finished in the top 10 in 13 of the 15 races on tracks 1.1 miles or shorter in length.  The exceptions were Phoenix last fall, when Jeff Gordon wrecked him, and Phoenix in February 2012, when he placed 30th after cutting tires early in the race and hitting the wall.

"A lot of these short tracks, we get loose going in (to the corner) and once you're loose getting in on any racetrack, you can't complete the corner and you're going to be off a little bit on speed.  So you focus on the balance of your car and then race hard.

"But more importantly, get comfortable.  On short tracks, things happen so fast that if you're not comfortable, if you're tense and up on the wheel and just can't get settled into a pace, it seems like you struggle.  Most of the time, I can get to where I'm relatively comfortable, just pacing and making laps."

Bowyer, eighth in the Sprint Cup Series standings, will look for similar success this week and build upon his runner-up finish in last year's Chase.  And no, he doesn’t believe in any type of jinx that goes with finishing second in points.

"We picked up right where we left off last year," Bowyer said of his early-season effort in 2013.  "Everybody talks about that 'sophomore jinx.'  It isn't the case with us.  Looking at Carl (Edwards) in particular, he lost by a point (in 2011).  The devastation from that can carry over, not just with the driver but everybody across the board on the race team.

"We were first year in with a brand new team (last season), finished second in the championship and won three races.  There's absolutely nothing to be hanging your head over, holding your head down.  We were all super-pumped and couldn't wait to get started in 2013.  For us, it's been business as usual.  We've had some bumps in the road, we've had some bad luck that we've had to battle through.  But we've been able to rebound after a bad weekend and get a good finish."

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