Bowyer enjoying Chase after ‘worst year’ of Sprint Cup career


DALLAS – As he traveled home Sunday, Clint Bowyer had a realization.

Behind him was Richmond International Raceway, where he finished 10th to clinch a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup and celebrated on a fan-swarmed stage with red solo cup.

But that wasn’t all that was behind him.

“Literally, (I) had the worst year ever in my whole career and I’m how many points out of the lead?” Bowyer asked Tuesday at a Chase media event in downtown Dallas.

The answer is 12 points.

Bowyer is the last entry on 16-driver Chase grid after finishing the regular season with two top-five and 11 top-10 finishes. Both are his lowest totals since he began racing full time in Sprint Cup in 2006 and are worse than his results in 2014 – when he missed the Chase.

The Emporia, Kans., native hasn’t won a Cup race since 2012, his first year with Michael Waltrip Racing, a team that will cease full-time operations in 2016 after co-owner Rob Kauffman announced he would be purchasing a stake in Chip Ganasi Racing.

“This is a whole new reset, a whole new opportunity, crack at the bat,” Bowyer said. “That brings so much enthusiasm and excitement to my attitude and everybody else’s at MWR. That’s huge thing.”

The new opportunity begins with the three-race Challenger Round, which visits Chicagoland, Dover and New Hampshire, with the last two seeming to appease Bowyer’s sensibilities.

“That’s the other thing about the Chase, these are pretty good race tracks for me,” he said. “You got some short tracks in there right off the bat to kind of get your base established.”

Bowyer has an average finish of 11.7 at Dover and two top-five finishes. Two of Bowyer’s eight career wins have come in Loudon. But the MWR driver admits there are concerns about Chicagoland, the 1.5-mile track that begins the Chase Sunday on NBCSN.

Bowyer has one top five there in nine starts and has only led eight laps.

“Chicago is probably my biggest fear because we’ve been down on aero all year long on these mile-and-a-halves and that’s certainly the first one. But I’m telling you, if you see that 15 ball come out of Chicago with a top 10, the race is on.”

Probably an indication of his new-found confidence, Bowyer mentioned Talladega Superspeedway before commenting on Chicagoland. The restrictor-plate track won’t be visited until the final race of the Contender Round. Bowyer has two wins and an average finish of 15.3 at that track.

“Talladega is always a crap shoot, but the way I look at it, that’s an opportunity,” Bowyer said. “If you can go to Talledega and have a good run there, that catapults you in big, big way.”

If Bowyer is able to capitalize on the chances the Chase offers, it’ll mean a measure of relief for 217 employees that will be out of work at season’s end.

Bowyer said while the team won’t be lacking resources through the rest of the season, that doesn’t mean manpower will be 100 percent all the way through the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“As the year comes to a close, people that can find jobs are certainly going to go get that job,” Bowyer said. “That’s where you’re probably going to run into trouble the most. (You) better not be tearing much stuff up because you might not have anybody to fix it. You might be down there by yourself fixing it.”

As a driver who has been on both ends of the points spectrum in the Chase format, Bowyer says being on the bubble is “by far, way less stressful” than being on top.

“It’s fun to go into that, no pressure on, you just go out there and push it as hard as you can, throw it all out there,” Bowyer said. “I think in doing that you can usually have a lot more success, regardless of the success you’ve had during the year. ”

Bowyer believes one needs only a “solid” performance level to make it through the first two rounds. After two years of struggles for Bowyer and his team, the No. 15 is one of the last 16 standing.

“After the year that we had, the last two years really, it’s just been kind of disappointing for me,” Bowyer said. “That being said, look where we are? We’re in the Chase.”

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NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Kyle Busch rank 1-2


Kyle Busch moved closer to the top spot after his win Sunday at WWT Raceway, but William Byron keeps hold of No. 1 after another top-10 run.

The series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, the second race of the season on a road course.


(Previous ranking in parenthesis)

1. William Byron (1) — He goes into Sonoma with six consecutive top-10 finishes after his eighth-place result at WWT Raceway. Byron has led a series-high 717 laps this season.

2. Kyle Busch (4) — Recorded his third win of the season Sunday. He is tied with Byron for most wins this year. Busch scored 59 of a maximum 60 points and won his first stage of the year Sunday. He has 16 playoff points. Only Byron has more with 17 this season.

3. Kyle Larson (3) — His fourth-place finish continued his up-and-down season. In the last nine races, Larson has two wins, four top fives, a 20th-place result and four finishes of 30th or worse. He has led 588 laps this season, which ranks second this year to Byron.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (2) — His fifth-place finish is his sixth top 10 in the last eight races. He ranks third in laps led this year with 383.

5. Denny Hamlin (7) — Runner-up result at WWT Raceway is his fourth top 10 in the last seven races.

6. Ryan Blaney (10) — Followed Coca-Cola 600 win with a sixth-place run at WWT Raceway. He had an average running position of 2.6 on Sunday, second only to winner Kyle Busch’s average running position of 1.9.

7. Joey Logano (9) — Third-place finish is his second top 10 in the last four races.

8. Kevin Harvick (NR) — His 10th-place finish is his fourth consecutive finish of 11th or better.

9. Ross Chastain (6) — Lost the points lead after placing 22nd, his third consecutive finish outside the top 20.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (NR) — Headed for his eighth top 15 in a row until he was collected in a crash after the contact between Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon late in Sunday’s race.

Dropped out: Chase Elliott (5th), Tyler Reddick (8th)

NASCAR will not penalize Austin Cindric for incident with Austin Dillon


Despite Richard Childress and Austin Dillon saying that Austin Cindric intentionally wrecked Dillon late in Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway, NASCAR will not penalize Cindric.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that there would be no penalty to Cindric after reviewing the contact.

Dillon and Childress were upset about the incident, which brought out the caution on Lap 220 of the 243-lap race. Dillon said NASCAR should suspend Cindric for the contact, just as NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

Contact between the left front of Cindric’s car and the right rear of Dillon’s car sent Dillon up the track into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Dillon finished 31st. Cindric continued and placed 13th.

Dillon told “I was wrecked intentionally by (Cindric), hooked right just like Chase and Denny and Bubba’s deal (in wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in 2022). He better be suspended next week.”

Childress said: “(Dillon) had drove up to about 10th until (Cindric) wrecked him in there on purpose, sort of a payback.”

Sawyer said a review of the incident included viewing video and data.

“We didn’t see anything — and haven’t seen anything — that really would rise to a level that would be a suspension or a penalty,” Sawyer said. “It looked like hard racing. One car coming up a little bit and another car going down.

“As we said last week, we take these incidents very serious when we see cars that are turned head-on into another car or head-on into the wall. I spent a lot of time (Monday) looking at that, looking at all the data, looking at TV footage and just deemed this one really hard racing.”

Sawyer said NASCAR plans to talk to both Cindric and Dillon “to make sure we’re all in a good place as we move forward to Sonoma.”



Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma


Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

The ARCA Menards Series West also is competing this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Cup driver Ryan Preece is entered in that event. Xfinity drivers Cole Custer, Riley Herbst, Sammy Smith and Parker Retzlaff also are entered in that race, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.


Winners and losers at WWT Raceway


Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:


Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.


Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.