Commentary

Bowyer helps make boss proud

Updated: October 24, 2011, 11:09 AM ET
By Ed Hinton | ESPN.com

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- If every team owner raced Cup races the way Richard Childress does, there would be no complaining that NASCAR has become boring.

While other teams were strategizing Sunday, laying back, tiptoeing through the Chase's biggest crapshoot, Childress ordered all four of his drivers to run as hard as they could, all afternoon, and try to win the race.

It may have cost him dearly.

"It may have cost us the championship," Childress acknowledged after Kevin Harvick got caught in a wreck and fell from second to fifth in the standings.

But two other RCR drivers ended up in a last-lap duel for the win after running up front for most of the Good Sam Club 500, and got Childress the 100th Cup win of his career as an owner.

Clint Bowyer passed Jeff Burton coming down the frontstretch toward the checkered flag, after the two had broken cleanly away from the pack on a restart with two laps left.

[+] EnlargeClint Bowyer, Jeff Burton
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesClint Bowyer, right, made the move under teammate Jeff Burton on the final straight to take the victory in the Good Sam Club 500.

Chase leader Carl Edwards and five-time champion Jimmie Johnson were prime examples, with their tandem drafting partners, of laying back nearly all race and then moving too late.

There might have been little or no show to the sixth race of the playoffs, except for Childress' unflinching way of racing.

"These fans pay a lot of money," he said. "I hate it for Kevin, but he did what he was supposed to be doing.

"All of our RCR cars raced to give these fans a show. We didn't sit in the back and ride and wait 'til the last minute. Our cars ran all day long. That's what we get paid for …

"And I'm proud of every one of 'em."

Edwards wound up 11th and Johnson 26th after their fall-back tactics backfired due to a rash of cautions toward the end.

Still, Edwards increased his lead in the standings to 14 over Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth, who finished 18th.

"I don't know that I've ever been this excited about 11th place," Edwards said. "This race was nerve-wracking for everyone. We came in here with a small points lead [five over Harvick] and we're leaving with a bigger one. That's a huge day for us."

Brad Keselowski was the highest-finishing Chaser on Sunday, fourth, and moved up to third in the standings, 18 points behind Edwards. Tony Stewart led the most laps, 30, but lost drafting partner Ryan Newman to a wreck and wound up seventh.

Bowyer and Burton are non-Chasers and both came into the race winless this Cup season. Between them they led 51 of the 188 laps at Talladega Superspeedway.

They worked together best with Bowyer pushing Burton, and that's how they broke away for the finish before Bowyer pulled the winning move.

On the final restart, "the split second I touched Jeff's bumper one of the Red Bull cars hit me in the butt, and it just launched us out there and the rest was history," said Bowyer, who'll leave RCR at season's end for Michael Waltrip Racing.

"I was able to get right up through the gearbox and shove him as hard as I could, and it got us away," Bowyer continued. "And at that split second they were racing two or three wide [behind the RCR duelists], and we were able to just drive off into the sunset."

"I don't know whether to be excited or upset," Burton said. "After the year we've had, it's good to be in position to win a race. Clint and I worked really well together the whole race …

"Whenever you leave here not wrecked, you ought to be happy," Burton said. "At the same time I'm heartbroken that we didn't win the race."

On the backstretch on the final lap, Bowyer was so sure his teammate and drafting partner was a sitting duck that "I already felt bad for him."

They were actually talking to each other on the radio with half a lap to go, and, "He told me, 'I bet you think you're gonna pass me on the front straightaway,'" Bowyer said. "I was chuckling on the backstretch, because that's exactly what I was thinking."

As they came off Turn 4, "I thought he made his move a little too early," Burton said. "But he had a lot of momentum when he made the move."

"I knew it was too early, but it was gonna be a drag race," Bowyer said, "and it would give us both a shot at it."

They bumped coming through the tri-oval, but Bowyer's car showed the "little bit more speed" Burton had seen in it all race.

"Jeff worked so well with me all day long, you hate that it comes down to that," Bowyer said. "He's been a great teammate and I've learned a lot from him."

Then Bowyer reconsidered a bit, saying Burton has "already won a lot of races. I'm not even close to him. He's won 20-something races [21] and I've only won five."

Bottom line, Bowyer cracked, "He'll be all right."

Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at edward.t.hinton@espn.com.

ALSO SEE