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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Ford chooses Sebastien Bourdais replacement for Le Mans (and it isn’t Tony Stewart … yet)

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CONCORD, N.C. —  Ford has chosen a replacement for injured Sebastien Bourdais at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is expected to announce the driver soon – but don’t hold your breath NASCAR fans.

It isn’t Tony Stewart, who has indicated his desire to run the renowned event.

While taping an upcoming episode Thursday of the NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ford Performance director Dave Pericak said the three time champion who returned from NASCAR’s premier series last year still is lobbying “every time he sees us” to race a Ford GT car.

“We love Tony, and he wants to get behind the wheel of that GT but not at LeMans” in 2017, Pericak told NBC Sports at the Ford Performance Technical Center.

However, the new co-driver will be relatively inexperienced on the famous Circuit de la Sarthe road course in France. Pericak said Ford’s high-tech simulator (which mainly is used for NASCAR but also is used for sports cars and street models) at its North Carolina facility would help prepare the replacement.

“We will be using the simulator heavily between now and then for that driver to become fully up to speed not only in the GT but at Le Mans,” Pericak said. “There’s a great example of where we’re going to get tons of hours behind the wheel before that driver gets on an airplanes and heads over the France.

“The realism is unbelieveable. It’s a fantastic tool to have with this situation. Otherwise, you pick a driver, send him to Le Mans and take your chances. We’re going to be much more prepared. We already have the simulator ready to run that track because we ran it all last year.”

Returning to France last year, Ford won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a Chip Ganassi Racing GT driven by Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Muller.

Bourdais, who suffered pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip in an Indianapolis 500 qualifying crash last Saturday, was released from an Indianapolis hospital Thursday.

“Thank God, he’s going to be OK,” Pericak said. “We’ve talked to him, he’s in good spirits, but we’re really pleased he’s going to make a full recovery.”

Pericak said an announcement of Bourdais’ replacement was likely Thursday or Friday.

NASCAR suspends Camping World Truck crew chief one race

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NASCAR has suspended Camping World Truck Series crew chief Kevin Bellicourt one Truck event and fined him $5,000 because Justin Haley‘s truck failed minimum height requirements after last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The L1 penalty also docked Haley 10 points and the team 10 owner points. He finished 17th in an encumbered finish.

NASCAR also announced Thursday that Joseph P. Light has been reinstated after successfully completing NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program. He was indefinitely suspended March 16.

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Stewart-Haas Racing, Nature’s Bakery reach tentative settlement

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Counsel for Stewart-Haas Racing reported to North Carolina Superior Court on Wednesday that it has executed settlement documents with Nature’s Bakery.

A status report was pushed back 21 days to June 23 in the event the that the parties have not filed a stipulation of dismissal by that date.

No details of the settlement documents were detailed to the court.

Stewart-Haas Racing filed a $31 million breach of contract lawsuit against Nature’s Bakery on Feb. 3. Nature’s Bakery had two years remaining on a three-year contract to sponsor Danica Patrick’s team when the company sent the team a notice of termination on Jan. 19 . Nature’s Bakery was to have paid $15,212,000 each season to sponsor the team.

Nature’s Bakery filed a counterclaim Feb. 25 stating it did not see the return it was led to believe in sponsoring Patrick’s team.

Click here to read court document

Thursday’s schedule for NASCAR Cup, Xfinity at Charlotte

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Charlotte Motor Speedway kicks off its weekend leading up to Sunday’s main event, the Coca-Cola 600, with today’s action.

The Xfinity Series will hold two practices, while the NASCAR Cup Series has one practice and qualifies in the evening.

Here is today’s schedule:

(All Times Eastern)

11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. – Cup garage open

1:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

2 p.m. – 3:25 p.m. – First Cup practice (Fox Sports 1)

4 p.m. – 4:55 p.m. – First Xfinity practice (FS1)

6 p.m. – 6:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (FS1)

7:15 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (FS1, Performance Racing Network)