By Kelly Crandall – Clint Bowyer will finally escape the controversy surrounding him for a couple hours today when he climbs aboard his Toyota for practice at Chicagoland.
The last time Bowyer was behind the wheel of his No. 15 he spun off turn four at Richmond, igniting a firestorm that’s followed him, the Michael Waltrip organization and NASCAR all week. Including penalties on Monday that took teammate Martin Truex Jr. out of the Chase, which Bowyer’s spin had helped lock in.
It’s been non-stop for Bowyer since. His reputation seemingly trashed because of one spin where he was being a team player. From ESPN to Twitter and finally at Chase media day on Thursday, Bowyer hasn’t been able to avoid comments, heckling and questions about last weekend.
“You asked about a line being crossed and obviously MWR stepped over that line,” Bowyer said Thursday in Chicago. “We got penalized. The one thing that I’m most looking forward to is getting this Chase started off right. We’ve had a great season and as far as that’s concerned, we know where the line is.
“The line was crossed and there was penalties – the largest penalties we’ve ever seen in this sport. Certainly, again, one more time, we have found the line.”
To recap, result of Bowyer’s spin as well as Brian Vickers role in the race manipulation, MWR was fine $300,000 and all three cars lost 50 driver and owner points, which is what took Truex from the final wild card spot to the outside of the Chase with Ryan Newman replacing him. Ty Norris, who had been spotting for Vickers and is the general manager for MWR, has been indefinitely suspended.
The Chase begins this weekend in Chicagoland, where Bowyer enters the eighth seed. He’s winless on the year and looking for his first championship. That’s the last thing being mentioned however, when it comes to the driver. Richmond still hangs in the foreground as fresh and angry as ever.
“It’s unfortunate, but penalties are, they’ve always been a part of this sport,” Bowyer said about the discipline from NASCAR. “We’ve always had penalties in this sport and for our sport the most important thing is a great Chase fixing to start and it’s going to start in a couple days. I’m looking forward to it for our sport and for my race team.
“For me personally, this is the best shot I’ve ever had at winning championships. I’m with a great team. We’ve got fast cars and it’s fun to be able to come to the race track knowing that you’ve got at shot at running up front. The last three weeks in a row, we’ve been up front.”
It could have been argued Bowyer was one of the best drivers leading into the Chase. The last three weeks: Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond, he led laps and was in contention for each win. Spun by a lapped car while leading at Bristol then blew an engine while leading at Atlanta. Richmond, before he spun, he had led as well. That’s 170 laps led and nothing to show for it, but Bowyer still remains excited about his chances, believing this is the team that has everything in place to win a championship.
This weekend however, might be the most important in trying to achieve that. Starting when he finally gets back in his car, expecting everything to fall away as it becomes tunnel vision on the season’s goal.
“I’m looking forward to the weekend. I really am. I’m excited about the Chase. I’ve been excited about the Chase for weeks, for months,” said Bowyer. “We had a great season. We’ve had a tremendous amount of fun. I haven’t won a race this year. My teammates have won. Lots of great things have gone on in our sport and we’ve got to get down to the biggest part of our sport and that’s the championship at the end of the year.
“Had a rough couple of days – no question about that – but I’ve got that behind me and I’m focused on getting a helmet on and getting the most out of my race car this weekend.”
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