Bowyer Emerging From Cocoon

Clint Bowyer

Clint Bowyer is coming off a third-place finish at Martinsville Speedway, his best finish in the Chase this year. (Photo: Getty Imges)


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Clint Bowyer laughed. He joked that more people know him for his appearance on “Duck Dynasty’’ than for his racing. He even sang a few notes. Stories, as they often do with Bowyer, went one way and then it was on to something else.

This was the Clint Bowyer who has been missing since the Chase began, shrouded by questions about what he and Michael Waltrip Racing did in the final laps of that race - actions that led to harsh NASCAR penalties. Bowyer has heard the fan response. Where there once was cheers, boos became prevalent at pre-race introductions.

Bowyer is emerging from the cocoon since the incident. Tueday’s appearance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame was an example.

“It was kind of tough for me to listen to things for a while,’’ he said, noting what fans said on radio programs about his late-race spin at Richmond. “It’s not like me to keep my mouth shut. I wanted to bite back. I understood the situation and the magnitude of it and knew that I was a part of it. Didn’t want to be.’’

His team also is emerging from the turmoil that Richmond created for Michael Waltrip Racing and continues to reverberate. Truex was dropped from the Chase, NAPA will leave the organization after this season and Michael Waltrip Racing will downsize from three to two full-time teams for next season, forcing some employees to be laid off.

Even a streamlined MWR can be competitive, Bowyer says. He notes that Penske Racing won last year’s title with two-car operation.

Bowyer showed signs of the team’s potential, finishing third Sunday at Martinsville Speedway - his best finish of the Chase this season and first top-five result since August.

“It was certainly ... a good shot in the arm for us,’’ said Bowyer, who remains winless this season. “I was disappointed. I’ve been looking forward to Martinsville for a long time. (We) need to win a race desperately bad.’’

The Martinsville run has Bowyer sixth in the points but he admits that his hopes of a title are slim.

“I just look at the two drivers that are tied for the points championship, unless they hand one of those other guys a bone, there is no chance,’’ he said. “I think those two teams have elevated themselves to championship caliber teams, and that is your race for the championship.’’

Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson hold a 27-point lead on third-place Jeff Gordon with three races left.

Ironically, Gordon was sixth in the points a year ago and Bowyer was third at this point. Then their paths crossed at Phoenix where Gordon retaliated by wrecking Bowyer for a series of run-ins during the season and that race.

With the series headed back to Phoenix in two weeks, should Gordon be worried about Bowyer?

“I would be if I was him, but I’m not him,’’ Bowyer said. “Don’t make a story out of it. There’s consequences with everything. You can’t make a decision or a move that is not going to come back and haunt you. What happened at Richmond, trust me, is haunting us every time we wake up.’’ 

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