CONCORD, N.C. – Throughout this year’s Chase for the Nextel Cup, Clint Bowyer has taken advantage of every opportunity.
Saturday night in the Bank of America 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, he was handed another.
Already running third as the final laps ticked off, Bowyer suddenly found himself in second when race leader Ryan Newman wrecked in Turns 1 and 2. With the race thrown into a two-lap overtime, Bowyer was given another chance at the win.
Jeff Gordon kept enough fuel in his No. 24 Chevrolet and just enough speed to hold off Bowyer for his second consecutive victory.
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Bowyer remains third in the points standings, 78 behind Gordon and 10 behind second-place Jimmie Johnson. He ended the race in the same position in points but perhaps with something more.
“We were the only ones that could run with the Hendrick cars all night long,” Bowyer said. “It’s going to take some luck to win this championship. Those guys (Gordon and Johnson) are going to have to stub their toes a little bit and we’ll be right in it.”
On the restart before the last one, Gordon slowed up in Turn 1 as his car had difficulty picking up fuel, allowing Newman to pass him for the lead. Newman’s wreck forced a final restart and this time Bowyer said he was ready.
“I saw Jeff spin his tires there and I thought, ‘This is going to be my chance.’ I back up on him a little bit and got a good run on him. He slipped and I was gaining on him too fast. I tried and just ran into the back of him,” Bowyer said. “I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”
Bowyer’s strong finish was similar to his performances in the previous four Chase races this season, but the top-five finish at Charlotte was out of character. In three previous races at the track, his best finish was 19th last year in his rookie season.
“I’m just thrilled to get out of here without hitting the Turn 4 wall,” Bowyer said. “This isn’t my best race track, which is no secret. Second is the first loser but in the big picture this keeps us right in the hunt.”
In five races in the Chase, Bowyer has finished first or second three times, including his first Nextel Cup Series win at New Hampshire in September. His worst finish so far in the Chase was his 12th place finish at Dover, Del.
“I have a lot of confidence in this team. I still believe we’re going to get a championship,” Bowyer said.