Category archive: Clint Bowyer

I don't know about us reading palms or being psychic, but when it comes to predicting the Chase participants, the ESPN.com boys did OK. You can even check it out on the chart at the bottom.

Getting it right on 10 out of 12 isn't so bad. Maybe we're not so dumb after all.

Our overall preseason predictions on the drivers who would make the playoff were 83.3 percent correct. We missed on Carl Edwards (who didn't?) and Kyle Busch.

The guys we didn't predict overall were Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. Clearly, we underestimated the improvement at Michael Waltrip Racing.

Marty Smith and David Newton outsmarted the rest of us on that one. They picked Bowyer to make the playoff, but he didn't total enough points to make our overall top 12. None of us picked Truex.

AJ Allmendinger was selected as a Chase-qualifier by Ed Hinton and Ryan McGee. Obviously, there were sad circumstances on that one, but he didn't appear headed to a playoff spot before the drug-test downfall.

Newt thought Joey Logano would make the Chase, and he was one victory from being right.

But overall, the seven of us -- K. Lee Davis, Joe Breeze, Smith, Newton, Hinton, McGee and me -- did pretty well.

It remains to be seen whether we get it right on our overall preseason choice as the Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson. Four of us picked him to win his sixth title: Davis, Breeze, Newton and yours truly. Marty and Easy Ed picked him second. McGee listed JJ third.

Ed selected Brad Keselowski as the 2012 champ, Marty picked Matt Kenseth and McGee chose Kevin Harvick. So we're all still in the running to get it right from our preseason choice.

Surprisingly, none of us picked Edwards to win the championship even though all of us thought he would make the Chase. Maybe we believed in that runner-up jinx stuff.

However, I changed my mind on the champ in my Chase predictions Sunday, listing Denny Hamlin as my selection now to win the title.

K. Lee and Joe are sticking with Johnson to win it all. Ed is staying with Keselowski. Marty is confident Kenseth's lame-duck status won't hurt him a bit, so he's hanging with Matt as the champ.

McGee thinks it's a two-man battle between Hamlin and JJ, but he went with Johnson. And Newt is convinced Gordon has what it takes after watching Jeff's amazing drive through the pack Saturday night to get in the playoff.

That means there's a 41.7 percent chance at least one of us is right. We've picked five different drivers between the seven of us -- three for Johnson and one each for Hamlin, Kenseth, Keselowski and Gordon.

We'll revisit this after Homestead and see if any of us got it right. Bonus points if the guys who stuck with their preseason pick end up with the champ.

Not every driver who received a vote made the top-12 cut. Here are the other drivers who received at least one nod.

Forrest Gump could have said interviews with race car drivers are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.

In case you haven't noticed, drivers can be a little surly at times. Sometimes they're condescending and sometimes just totally uninterested. They also can be funny and engaging.

Sprint Cup is a long season and no one is on his A-game every day, including reporters. And occasionally, there's a disconnect between the two.

Last weekend at New Hampshire had a few good examples. Let's start with Tony Stewart.

Even on what he described as a perfect day for Stewart-Haas Racing -- Tony finished second and SHR teammate Ryan Newman won the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 -- Stewart still let out his evil twin for a few moments afterward.

The top three finishers of each race are required to come to the media center for questions. Stewart was there as the second-place finisher, but he also could have stayed as the team owner of the winning car.

So a reporter asked Stewart if he was going to stay for the owner's portion of the postrace interviews.

"This is the owner's portion, just so you know," Stewart said. "It never ceases to amaze me how much of a rocket scientist you are. I'm honored to be in your presence."

The reporter then said he meant it as a joke, but added, "Maybe your jokes are better."

"I'm pretty sure," Stewart said. "We'll take a poll and it will be overwhelming."

Oh Tony, no need to get all riled up on such a big day.

And then we had Kyle Busch, who was interviewed in the garage after he blew a right-front tire. Busch was asked if contact with the No. 88 Chevy of Dale Earnhardt Jr. caused his tire problem.

"There's been contact with everybody out there," Busch said. "So nice try making a story."

Busch was implying that the reporter wanted to stir up bad blood between Kyle and Junior. Not true. This was a legitimate question.

A couple of laps before Busch's tire came apart, Kyle's right-front tire made contact with Earnhardt's left-rear tire, causing smoke to fly off Busch's tire well.

Busch said a bead melted on the tire, which Goodyear officials later confirmed. But asking him about the contact with Earnhardt was a legitimate question.

At least Busch was feisty. Earnhardt was anything but feisty in his interview session Friday morning at his hauler.

For a guy who hears questions over and over again every week, it gets monotonous at times. And it was obvious from the start Friday that Earnhardt would prefer a root canal without anesthetic to standing around talking to a media cluster.

The last two questions were mail-it-in time for Junior:

What was the feeling he had the first time he went down the frontstretch at Indy?

"I don't remember," Earnhardt said, barely above a whisper.

What does it take to be successful at Indy?

"Be leading," he said.

Allrighty then. And with that, interview time was over.

But for every moment like those, there's also some answers from drivers that make up for it.

Clint Bowyer was asked the same question about his thoughts on his first lap at the Brickyard:

"'What the hell? It's way too big.' That's what I thought," Bowyer said. "And you think back in the day cars would run only 80 mph around here. Can you imagine watching that race? Those straightaways must have seemed pretty long."

Even dead tired after a tough race, some guys make it fun.

After 301 laps on a hot day at New Hampshire, Carl Edwards was asked why he was standing on pit road while all the other guys were sitting on the pit wall.

"We don't sit down, come on," Edwards said. "I think Jimmie [Johnson] was sitting down because he is intimidated by our points lead."

Now that was good. In the world of interviewing drivers, you just never know what you're gonna get.

As far as the bookmakers in Las Vegas are concerned, Jimmie Johnson remains the man to beat for the Sprint Cup.

Johnson's recent woes on the track haven't dropped him from the top of the betting line in Vegas.

Johnson is ninth in the points standings. He has fallen seven spots after posting finishes of 22nd or worse in five of the last seven races.

But the summer slump hasn't stopped bookmakers from placing Johnson as the favorite to win his fifth consecutive title.

Heading into the open weekend, two races before the start of the Chase, Johnson is listed at 7-to-2 at the Las Vegas Hilton. Kevin Harvick is second at 9-to-2.

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Clint Bowyer
John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCARClint Bowyer is the least-favored driver in the top 12 by Las Vegas oddmakers, but 20-to-1 isn't too bad.

Why is Johnson favored, you ask? Two reasons. First, Johnson's won four in a row. That alone is a darn good reason to keep him on top.

But there's also a statistical reason. If the Chase started today, Johnson would begin the playoff on top, tied with Denny Hamlin. Both drivers have a series-best five victories. Hamlin is 5-to-1 on the betting line.

Harvick and Kyle Busch, each with three victories, would start the playoff 20 points back. Busch is listed at 5-to-1 with Hamlin.

Jeff Gordon, winless this season but second in the points standings, is next on the betting list at 7-to-1. Rounding out the top six is winless Tony Stewart at 10-to-1.

Kurt Busch, who has two wins and will be the only Dodge driver in the Chase, is 12-to-1.

Greg Biffle, the only other Chase contender with a victory this season, is listed at 15-to-1. Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards is slightly better at 12-to-1, and RFR driver Matt Kenseth is 18-to-1.

Jeff Burton, Harvick's teammate at Richard Childress Racing, is also 18-to-1. RCR driver Clint Bowyer, who is hoping to hold on to a 100-point advantage in the 12th-place bubble spot, is the long shot of the Chase boys at 20-to-1.

But 20-to-1 isn't much of a long shot. What it means, at least in the eyes of the bookies, is the 2010 Chase is wide open.

Johnson remains the favorite for now, but not by much. If the Vegas oddsmakers are right, this is going to be a fun Chase to watch.

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Maybe you haven't noticed, but Richard Childress Racing is improving. And Sunday's race could gauge just how far RCR has come.

Everyone at RCR is disappointed about the organization's lackluster results in 2009, no victories this season and failing to place a driver in the Chase for the first time.

But things are looking up. The Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend was the first time in more than a year that RCR had three drivers finish in the top 10 on the same day.

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Richard Childress
AP Photo/Bob JordanRichard Childress has been scrambling to put his Sprint Cup teams on more competitive footing.

Fuel strategy played a part in how things sorted out at the end, but the Childress boys ran well all day.

Kevin Harvick's fifth-place showing was his best finish in the last two months. Clint Bowyer was seventh, his fourth top-10 in the eight Chase races. And Jeff Burton finished ninth in his backup car after wrecking the primary car in practice two days earlier.

"What a heck of a run by our team," Burton said after the race. "These guys fought hard after we had to load up our primary No. 31 Chevy. Todd [Berrier, crew chief] did a great job dialing in our backup for the race."

The TMS event was the first time RCR had three top-10s in a race since the Dover fall event last year. The cars are more competitive and the guys on the pit box are making smart decisions at key moments.

"Our car was tight all day," Bowyer said after the TMS race. "But Shane [Wilson, crew chief] made a call to short pit for fuel in order to make it to the end. The cards fell in our favor and it was another good result."

The four RCR drivers, including Casey Mears, have posted 11 top-10s in the eight Chase races. At least one RCR driver has finished in the top 10 in each of the last five races.

But this weekend is a big test. RCR was awful at Phoenix in April. Burton was the only RCR drivers to finish on the lead lap, and he was 15th. Mears ended up 20th, Bowyer was 26th and Harvick was 30th.

"Yeah, that's when we knew we needed to start doing some work on our cars," Harvick said earlier this week. "What made it really evident was that we actually ran 30th.

"It wasn't like something happened to put us back there, like contact with another car or brushing the wall. Then I could see us running back there."

It was only the eighth race of the season, but Harvick and everyone else at RCR knew they had serious problems, and those problems weren't solvable overnight.

A week later, Childress announced that Harvick and Mears were swapping crews. It was the first of many changes that have transpired this season for the RCR teams.

Harvick says he's leaving after his contract expires next year. RCR may go back to three cars next season because Jack Daniel's is leaving as the sponsor of the No. 07 Chevy, so Mears probably is out of a ride.

But the last few weeks have been encouraging for the RCR folks. The results have improved dramatically and all signs point to a possible resurgence in 2010.

SONOMA, Calif. -- What's wrong with Richard Childress Racing?

It's a question I get on every chat, and in e-mails I receive almost daily. Fans want to know what the heck is going on at RCR.

Of course, if the RCR folks knew the answer to that question, they would fix it. But Jeff Burton gave some detailed insight about the problem Friday.

"The brunt of it is we didn't do a good job this past winter," Burton said. "We didn't prepare well, and now we're behind. We all have different problems, but fundamentally, you look at the speed chart on most Fridays and we're not in the top 10."

Burton said it isn't a horsepower issue.

"On the engine side, we're making enough power," he said. "But we don't go through the corner as well as the competition because we have less handling. That's the problem."

The first step in correcting a problem is understanding what the problem is. So can RCR get it corrected soon?

"There is no magic wand to wave to make it all better," Burton said. "But we are not in panic mode. It's important in this situation not to panic by trying to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Everyone is working hard to get better. You just immediately get on it and address it."

Burton is the only RCR driver in the top 12 (barely) entering the Toyota/SaveMart 350 this weekend. Burton is 12th, only three points ahead of David Reutimann.

Clint Bowyer ranks 16th, and Casey Mears is 21st. But the real shocker is Kevin Harvick in 23rd.

"Kevin is concerned, the same as we all are about where we're at," Burton said. "But Kevin has handled it in a positive manner. Everybody is on pins and needles. Our sponsors know we should be better, and Richard knows we should be better. It's been disappointing."

All three drivers who were at RCR last year are worse off than they were one year ago. Burton ranked second in the standings last June. Harvick was 10th, Bowyer 12th.

Whatever handling issues RCR has had on the ovals this season, it might be a non-factor this weekend on the Sonoma road course. Bowyer finished fourth here last year. Harvick was second in 2007, one spot ahead of Burton.

"It's a little bit of a stressful weekend because it's so easy to make a mistake here," Burton said. "You have a bunch of different agendas out there. Some people here race only a couple of times a year, so they have nothing to lose.

"For us, you have to measure the risk. My strategy is to survive it."

Come to think of it, that's the overall strategy at RCR for the moment.