Clint Bowyer smiles a lot. He’s smiling even more these days. He’s become the quiet surprise of the 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He’s got momentum on his side and two welcome tracks in front of him.
The Sprint Cup Series races at Kansas Speedway this weekend, Bowyer’s home track. Next week it stops at Martinsville Speedway, the only short track in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Bowyer obviously likes Kansas because it is home, and while Martinsville isn’t home, it’s a place where he is much more comfortable these days.
“Believe it or not, I think Martinsville is a track where we can win at,” said Bowyer, who has seen his share of struggles at the historic half-mile oval.
The Chase began with Bowyer as somewhat of an afterthought, seeded seventh among the 12 chasers. But he picked up momentum before the Chase began, winning at Richmond International Raceway in the final race before the Chase. Then he just quietly moved forward while Brad Keselowski grabbed the headlines.
In the Chase opener at Chicagoland, he finished 10th. The next week he was fourth at New Hampshire and then logged a ninth at Dover. He stumbled to a 23rd at Talladega after getting caught up in the massive late wreck, but bounced back with a win at Charlotte last week.
At the halfway point of the 10-race Chase, Bowyer is 28 points behind leader Keselowski, 13 behind third-place Denny Hamlin and 21 behind second-place Johnson.
Statistically, Martinsville would seem to be an odd place to be considered in Bowyer’s comfort zone. He has only one top-5 finish in 13 starts, an average finish outside of the top 15 and hasn’t been a great qualifier on the short track.
But Bowyer likes to look at recent history. In both 2011 Martinsville races, he finished just outside of the top 10. And then there was last spring’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500. He ran toward the front most of the day, led laps, and was making a bold move for the lead with just a handful of laps remaining when things got crazy. He dove inside of Jeff Gordon and Johnson entering the first turn on a late restart and three wide just didn’t work. Ryan Newman slipped through for the win and Bowyer had to settle for 10th.
“We just keep getting better and better there (Martinsville),” Bowyer said Tuesday during a conference call. “I’ve gotten a lot better there over the years, and building a brand new race car that we’ve got a lot of confidence in, and really looking forward to Martinsville to hopefully get us another win. There are still a couple racetracks where I feel like we can win at and continue to stay in the hunt for the championship.”
Martinsville Speedway PR