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Clint Bowyer ‘knocking on the door’ of a win as he returns to home track

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Clint Bowyer is adamant he “never” thinks about how long it’s been since he won a NASCAR Cup race.

Even if that’s the case, the Stewart-Haas Racing  driver has clearly pondered what he’ll do if his 159-race winless streak ends tonight at his home track in the Go Bowling 400.

“We would have a large time. I know the hot  spots around here,” Bowyer said Friday at Kansas Speedway. “I think probably everybody would have an open invite. I have a sponsor with a hell of a product, a teammate with a hell of a product sponsor, so St. Louis isn’t very far away either. We will be fine.”

Through 10 races this season, Bowyer is more than fine compared to where he was at this point last season.

During his one season with HScott Motorsports, Bowyer was coming off his second top-10 finish of the year. He would only earn one more.

Now, the No. 14 team is ninth in the standings, the best out of SHR’s four teams. Bowyer has two top fives and four top 10s. In addition to finishing second at Bristol, Bowyer has finished every race on the lead lap since a DNF in the Daytona 500.

“Last year sucked,” Bowyer said. “It wasn’t fun for anybody, especially me. The good news is the bus picked us up and we jumped on the fun bus clear back in Daytona. I don’t know how you missed it. It is a big ass bus. … When I walked out of one building and got into the other one it was a fun time, trust me. It was overnight. I woke up one morning as a Stewart-Haas employee. That was a good time.”

Entering the Go Bowling 400, Bowyer has an average finish of 11.8 on the season.

“We are knocking on the door,” Bowyer said. “We aren’t knocking enough, but last week we led some laps and showed potential again. It takes the total package. You have to put it together. It all starts with consistency, running up front on a consistent manner week in and week out. We have a good baseline established and that is with no notes or nothing to work with. No experience with one another. No communication.”

Bowyer’s average finish at Kansas in 17 starts is 17.2. Though he has five top 10s, his last one came in 2013 when he finished fifth in this race.

“It is a clean slate every time I go to the track with (crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) and the guys on the 14 car,” Bowyer said. “There is no reason to think it won’t be better this week. I know Mike was excited about the car and he knows that this is an important one for me. He knows that I need to run better on these types of race tracks.”

Even though it’s still relatively early, Bowyer has all the confidence he’ll be one of the 16 drivers in the playoffs come September. Part of the confidence comes from Bowyer having led 10 laps last week at Talladega, his first of the season.

“You have to lead laps to win these races,” Bowyer said. “You can’t just be an eighth-place car. You have to get up and lead laps and we need to get a couple of stage wins. We have to have that going into the playoffs. Do I think we are going to make the playoffs? Yes. I am not saying that arrogantly or to be cocky, I just feel like we are a team that is going to be in that one way shape or form. Whether we race our way in or win our way in.”

There’s that word again – win.

What kind of trouble would the Emporia, Kansas, native get in if he won on his home turf?

The kind that might make Mother’s Day a little awkward.

“She wouldn’t be proud of me,” Bowyer said with a laugh. “If that was to happen, I probably wouldn’t be in very good shape for Mother’s Day. We would probably have to postpone that to Monday. It would be huge to win at home and to finally seal the deal after all this time. It would be ultra-special.”

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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)