Clint Bowyer having fun, but says it ‘sucks’ to finish second in Food City 500

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Clint Bowyer could have used a lot of words to describe finishing second as Jimmie Johnson sped away to win Monday’s Food City 500.

But at first, he kept it simple.

“Sucks,” Bowyer said after earning his first runner-up result since the spring 2013 race at Richmond International Raceway.

Why did the Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s best result in four seasons suck?

Because Bowyer was doing some “pretty desperate things” with the brakes and driving line of his No. 14 Chevrolet to catch Johnson.

None of it worked. Bowyer took the checkered flag 1.2 seconds after Johnson.

“You’re watching your lap times and you’re adjusting everything you can possibly adjust, you know, from a track bar adjustment to adjusting your line on the racetrack, just trying every little thing you can possibly do,” Bowyer said. “It was like if I could gain on him one lap and then he’d gain on me the next, and then it just kind of fell by the wayside, kind of realized that, you know, it was a second‑place day.”

It was the third time Bowyer has finished second since his last victory, in the fall 2012 race at Charlotte. It was also Bowyer’s best Bristol result in 23 starts at the short track.

Bowyer’s presence at the front for the final 31-lap sprint came after he was caught speeding during a pit stop on Lap 326. He was one of seven drivers caught speeding Monday. Both he and Matt Kenseth (fourth) were able to finish in the top five.

The No. 14 Ford had an average running spot of 13.62 before pit strategy helped put Bowyer in the position to potentially visit Victory Lane.

“(Crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) made a good call of putting me in a position of one of the first cars on four tires there,” Bowyer said. “I think (Johnson) was the other one, and he won the race, so the right strategy was there. The team effort was there.

“You know, that’s what a weekend is all about. It’s just been this long since I’ve won a race, and here is pretty special. It would have been pretty cool to be over there in Victory Lane.”

While it “sucks” to make a futile attempt to catch Johnson, Bowyer is still having fun eight races into his tenure with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Bowyer already has two top fives (Auto Club), matching his 2015 total from his last season with Michael Waltrip Racing before the organization folded. In his lone season with the now defunct HScott Motorsports last season, Bowyer earned no top fives. But his best non-restrictor plate result was eighth in last spring’s Bristol race.

The Kansas native knows getting close and missing out on a win is part of the territory. But Bowyer admits he’s starting to get a little selfish with his results, which have him eighth in the points standings, the best among Stewart-Haas Racing’s four drivers.

“It’s called racing,” Bowyer said. “Been that way my whole life, since I was about 5 years old. … You struggle and struggle and struggle for a year and a half here, and hell, next thing you know you’re being greedy about second. You know what I mean?

“That’s just the way racers are wired and the way it’s always been. Having a ton of fun and working hard and seeing the results is gratifying for this race team. I mean, we need sponsorship on the side of this car rather than (Haas Automotive) and good runs like this and positive momentum and mojo is a good way to do that.”

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NASCAR America: Chase Elliott ‘biggest surprise’ of Cup playoffs

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Only two drivers are safely in the third round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs. Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski secured spots through their wins at Charlotte and Talladega.

That leaves six spots to be decided Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

NASCAR America analysts Parker Kligerman and Kyle Petty broke down the drivers competing for spots. Both of them agreed that Chase Elliott, who has finished in second in three of the five playoff races, has a great chance to make it all the way to the championship race in Miami.

“If Talladega had played out, he was either going to be in victory lane or in the top two or three,” Petty said. “When you look at that, he has had the most solid playoffs of any driver out there. We keep talking about the big three: Larson, Busch and Truex. This guy is a sleeper. But he’s my No. 4.”

Said Kligerman: “He’s been the biggest surprise. That 24 team has been incredible through the playoffs. One thing I’ve noticed about that team, just speaking to (crew chief) Alan Gustafson, speaking to Chase, it’s almost as if they want that first win more than they care about the playoffs.”

Watch the above video for more on the playoff drivers.

Friday’s NASCAR Cup, Xfinity schedule at Kansas Speedway

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Things get started today for the pivotal weekend at Kansas Speedway.

The NASCAR Cup Series will have its elimination race in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, where four of the 12 remaining playoff drivers will not advance to the Round of 8.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series begins its Round of 8 with Saturday’s Kansas 300.

But it all begins today, as Cup has its first practice (the other two are Saturday) and qualifying, while the Xfinity Series will have its two practice sessions.

Here’s how today’s schedule shapes up:

(All times are Eastern)

10:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. — Cup garage open

12 – 8:30 p.m. — Xfinity garage open

1 – 2:25 p.m. — First Cup practice (NBCSN, Motor Racing Network)

2:30 – 3:25 p.m. First Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

5 – 5:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

6:15 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, 3 rounds) (NBCSN, MRN)

NASCAR: Will Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch advance in playoffs?

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The last two drivers to win NASCAR Cup titles are in precarious positions ahead of the Round of 12 elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

Kyle Busch, the 2015 champion, is outside the top eight in ninth. He sits seven points behind defending champion Jimmie Johnson.

NASCAR America analysts Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman debated who they think had the best chance to advance to the Third round after Sunday.

Petty put his money behind Busch, who has finished in the top five in each of his last five starts at the 1.5-mile track.

“He’s one of the big three: Truex, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson,” Petty said. “I don’t see where these (last) two races (Charlotte, Talladega) have changed anything. The one thing Kyle Busch brings into Kansas City … he brings speed. These guys have had speed all year-long.”

Johnson on the other hand has produced only four top fives all season and just one since he won at Dover in June.

But Kligerman explained why he thinks the seven-time champion will prevail on Sunday.

“Jimmie Johnson knows how to pass and that is what has become evident throughout this season,” Kligerman said. “No, they have not had the fastest cars at Hendrick Motorsports. No, they have not qualified well. They’ve actually been sort of abysmal at qualifying of late.

“… He has three wins this year. Two of those he started at the back.”

Watch the video for more.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Daniel Hemric, Daniel Suarez’ racing roots

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to preview the Round of 12 elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman from Stamford, Connecticut.

On the show:

  • We’ll debate which past Cup Series champion will advance to the Round of 8. Defending champion Jimmie Johnson currently leads 2015 champ Kyle Busch by only seven points for the final transfer spot. Who has the edge going into Kansas this Sunday? This elimination race will be a heated competition just to finish above the cut line. Log on to NBCSports.com/NASCARVote and weigh in!
  • Xfinity Series playoff driver Daniel Hemric calls into the show to talk about his chances of advancing to the championship four in Miami. He’ll also describe his experience being one of the four drivers to participate in the recent tire test at the Charlotte Motor Speedway “Roval.”
  • We take a look at the Daniel Suarez’s Racing Roots and discuss his transition from Xfinity Series champion to Monster Energy Cup Series rookie.
  • Parker Kligerman hops into the iRacing simulator to preview Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas, as well as the Formula 1 race in Austin, Texas.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.