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Thursday, September 12, 2013
Clint Bowyer says he's ready to race

By Brant James
ESPN.com

CHICAGO -- Clint Bowyer said he is "done" with the dissection of his solitary, race-altering spinout with seven laps left in the Sprint Cup regular-season closer on Saturday at Richmond International Raceway.

"I've had a rough few days, probably rougher than I've ever had," Bowyer said Thursday during a pre-Chase for the Sprint Cup media day. "I spoke my piece. I did national interviews all day long. I could have just as easily ducked away from all of them and not gave an interview. I went up there (to ESPN) and did my interviews, and I think for me, personally, I got that behind me. Now I'm ready to race."

Bowyer's stance was definitive enough and personally enforceable enough with the media.

Bowyer I've had a rough few days, probably rougher than I've ever had. I spoke my piece. I did national interviews all day long. I could have just as easily ducked away from all of them and not gave an interview. I went up there and did my interviews and I think for me, personally, I got that behind me. Now I'm ready to race.

-- Clint Bowyer

Fans already have proven more difficult to suppress. And if an afternoon fan forum was any indication, the public shaming of Bowyer and Michael Waltrip Racing is just the next phase of recompense after NASCAR levied massive and historic fines against the team for altering the outcome at Richmond.

Host Nicole Briscoe was posing to Bowyer a question during "Contenders Live" at Navy Pier when a fan interrupted her "a lot of people expected you" with "to spin out!" Another yelled "Gordon!" during a Bowyer response, referring to Jeff Gordon, who was left outside the Chase field even after penalties were levied that bounced Bowyer teammate Martin Truex Jr.

Bowyer might have some company in ignominy. Joey Logano, whose Penske Racing team is being investigated by NASCAR for radio chatter suggesting a deal to orchestrate a valuable points pass of David Gilliland on Saturday, was scolded with "cheater!"

"What did I do?," he asked in response.

Most have an opinion on what Bowyer did, particularly whether he did it intentionally, especially considering his odd loss of control occurred after being informed that Ryan Newman was leading, thus jeopardizing Truex's Chase chances, and a bizarre exchange with crew chief Brian Pattie.

Bowyer declined opportunities to elaborate on Thursday, asserting that he was looking forward to moving past the controversy "for our sport, for my race team, for me personally" because "this is the best shot I've ever had to win a championship."

"I told you guys," Bowyer said to the media. "I've given my interviews, on national television over and over and over. I know you guys all wrote your story about it. It's time to write your story about the Chase."

Dale Earnhardt Jr., a professed "NASCAR fan boy" who lamented that NASCAR was put in a position to act, agreed, and said there should be no perceived lack of credibility surrounding the sport.

"We have to move forward, whether willing to do it or not," he said. "The race is going to happen Sunday. Going to be at the track tomorrow, so there's not going to be much of a choice to get past it. I think everybody is happy NASCAR stepped in; we all know this isn't the first time anything like this has happened. It's happened in the past. I don't think we need to beat on MWR and Clint too much because it's been done before. I think most importantly NASCAR felt it needed to deter this type of activity, and that was a good move for the sport long term. People's opinions about the specific fines and penalties are different. That's neither here nor there. We're going to be in the car tomorrow."

Most of Bowyer's peers profess that while the swapping of positions for bonus points is a common and accepted practice, the altering of the outcome of a race violates an unwritten code. Newman was on his way to victory before Bowyer's spin induced a caution under which he lost the lead, benefiting Truex. But Bowyer won't be viewed differently, driver Greg Biffle said, because his peers believe he was ordered to act. MWR general manager Ty Norris is serving an indefinite suspension after taking blame for orchestrating the scheme.

"I think he was asked to do that, and they were penalized for it," Biffle said. "I think NASCAR is paying attention to all this stuff. They are listening to radio traffic. You are going to get penalized for that. I don't think we look at it any different. We understand it was a situation, and keep in mind that the other thing is that this, in my opinion, is a split-second decision that was made. It was probably the wrong split-second decision. We have all made decisions in the heat of the battle, heat of the moment, whether it was to knock a guy out of the way or whatever that we look back and say, 'Yeah, I probably shouldn't have done that.'"

Earnhardt Jr., who was docked 25 points in 2004 for creating a caution with an intentional spin at Bristol Motor Speedway, predicted that Bowyer will weather criticism. NASCAR took action against Earnhardt Jr. only after he admitted his transgression as not to lose laps pitting under green for a flat tire.

"Clint will do what he needs to do. He's a racer," he said. "He's been through just as tough stuff on the racetrack and coming from the dirt tracks. He's probably seen it all. He'll be fine. He'll not be affected as far as his performance at all."

And he might be done talking about it. But he's probably not done hearing about it.