FORT WORTH, Texas – Clint Bowyer’s best hope to win the Chase for the Nextel Cup this season?
Speaking about new points leader Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, who trails Johnson by just 30 points with two races left, Bowyer’s crew chief, Gil Martin offered this assessment: “They’re going to have to oversleep or something in Phoenix.”
It’s not quite that bad, but very close.
Bowyer had to pit twice under green late in Sunday’s Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway for a loose wheel and was relegated to a 19th-place finish. He remains third in points but trails Johnson by 181. The most a driver can make up in one race is 161.
“Now, it’s just a mathematical long shot,” Martin said. “It was frustrating for everybody. I mean we’ve had such a good run every week for him. We had another good run tonight.”
Bowyer exited his car on pit road after the race and left with comment. A statement was issued by his team later in the evening.
“We are down but not out in the Chase. There is no give-up in this team,” Bowyer's statement said. “We are going to take it a lap at a time, race at a time and keep fighting until the checkered flag falls at Homestead."
Bowyer was likely still steaming over the pit road miscue that dropped him from the top 10 to two laps down with less than 90 laps remaining.
On Lap 248 of 334 after Bowyer thought he had a loose rear wheel, Bowyer came down pit road and Martin ordered two right-side tires. Soon after returning to speed, however, Bowyer determined it was the left-rear that was loose.
That meant another pit stop under green for tires, dropping him further out of contention.
“The left-sides had been on there for almost 28-29 laps and the right-sides had only been on there for three laps,” said Martin. “I guess after the restart when Clint spun the tires it loosened the left-rear up enough to start vibrating and it came loose.
“Since we just pitted, we just hoped it was the right-rear (tire). It wasn’t, so we had to come back. In hindsight, I wish we had taken four. We didn’t. That’s all you can do.”
Bowyer has so far been the Cinderella story of the Chase. Entering the final 10-race run to the championship, he was the only driver without a victory this season.
He quickly corrected that with a dominating win in the Chase opener at New Hampshire and added a pair of second-place finishes in the next four races. He has remained within striking distance of Hendrick Motorsports teammates Johnson and Gordon until Sunday.