After busy week, Bowyer focuses on Chase

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DOVER, Del. – His odds are bleak, his future set and his baby turned 1.

It’s been quite a few days for Clint Bowyer.

After securing his future – he’ll drive for HScott Motorsports in 2016 and replace Tony Stewart in 2017 at Stewart-Haas Racing – and celebrating son Cash’s first birthday this week, Bowyer turns his focus to a last-gasp bid to advance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Bowyer enters Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway last among the 16 Chase drivers. The top 12 will advance. Bowyer is 39 points out of a transfer spot. Realistically, the only way he’ll advance is by winning and his last Cup victory came nearly three years ago.

“Believe it or not, last year’s champion has to win, too,’’ Bowyer said, referring to reigning champion Kevin Harvick, who also could fail to advance to the second round.

Adding to Bowyer’s challenges this weekend is that he’ll be without crew chief Billy Scott, who begins serving his three-race suspension. Michael Waltrip Racing lost its appeal Wednesday and decided not to make one final appeal of NASCAR’s penalty issued two weeks ago. Engineer Dax Gerringer will serve as Bowyer’s interim crew chief.

“You’ve got to do everything you can do to keep up with these teams,’’ Bowyer said of the team’s penalty. “They pushed as hard as they could, and (NASCAR) bit back.’’

Bowyer said the penalty added to what has been a tumultuous period for Michael Waltrip Racing employees, who prepare cars while also looking for work with the team closing after this season.

“It’s been a helluva last two or three months,’’ Bowyer said.

“You go home and it’s been a frustrating year on the track, that’s the hardest thing. I’m very proud of the sponsors, the partners that I’ve had, the people around me, but I’m miserable.

“If I’m not running good, you can go ask my wife, she tends to use other words than miserable, but it’s true. We’re all that way. We’re racers. The reason we’re here at this level is because we’ve had a lot of success, and we’ve always been acclimated to that and used to that. When you don’t have that, it’s pretty trying times.’’

Bowyer says his son has helped ground him this season, especially this week on Cash’s birthday.

“The neatest thing about that is you wake up and you go get him and say ‘Happy Birthday man’ and you know he has no clue,’’ Bowyer said with a smile. “It’s still the same, ‘Change my dirty diaper, give me my damn bottle.’ ’’

Bowyer did take some time that day to go back through the various photos of his son in the past year.

“You see that first day and relive all that,’’ Bowyer said.

It made him smile again.

NASCAR shares prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer

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FORT WORTH, Texas — The NASCAR garage is sharing its prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer DJ VanderLey, who was injured Thursday night in a crash during a micro sprint Outlaw race at the Texas Motor Speedway dirt track.

He suffered several fractured vertebrae and has a spinal cord injury, according to a post from his wife Jordan on her Facebook page. 

Two GoFundMe accounts have been set up to help the family with medical costs. 

VanderLey was Chase Briscoe’s engineer for four years, and they are good friends.

“I hate that it happened to anybody,” Briscoe said Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, “but for it to hit close to home has definitely been tough for me.”

Briscoe said he planned to visit VanderLey in the hospital on Saturday and that “I just hope that everybody continues to pray. That’s really all we can do at this point, trying to hope he gets better.”

Christopher Bell calls VanderLey among his best friends. VanderLey was Bell’s engineer at Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2016. 

Bell spent the night at the hospital and also picked up Jordan VanderLey at the airport when she arrived. 

Stewart-Haas Racing had a decal for VanderLey on Riley Herbst‘s No. 98 Xfinity car for Saturday’s race.

Starting lineup for Texas Cup race: Brad Keselowski wins pole

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Brad Keselowski will be at the front of the field to start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway (3:30 pm ET, USA Network).

Keselowski, who is not a part of the 12-driver playoff group, won the pole Saturday afternoon with a speed of 188.990, edging Joey Logano‘s 188.805.

MORE: Texas Cup starting lineup

The race is the first of three in the second round of the Cup playoffs. Round of 12 races will follow at Talladega Superspeedway Oct. 2 and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval Oct. 9.

MORE: Waffle House a headquarters for race winners

Also starting in the top five Sunday will be William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Michael McDowell. It is McDowell’s best oval start of the season and his ninth top-10 start of the year.

Brad Keselowski wins Cup pole at Texas Motor Speedway

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Brad Keselowski, hoping to extend Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s turnaround, won the pole Saturday for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

It was the second piece of good news for RFK Racing in two weeks. Chris Buescher,  Keselowski’s teammate, won last week’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the first victory for the team under the RFK banner.

Keselowski, who ran 188.990 mph, is not a part of the 12-driver playoff group. Nine of the first 14 starting positions were filled by playoff drivers.

MORE: Texas Cup qualifying results

Following in the top five Saturday were Joey Logano, William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Michael McDowell. Playoff point leader Chase Elliott will start sixth.

“Texas is a really tough track,” Keselowski told NBC Sports. “As hot as it’s going to be, that will be even tougher.”

Race-time temperatures are expected to be in the mid-90s Sunday.

The race (3:30 p.m. ET), the first event in the second round of the playoffs, will be televised by the USA Network.

Sunday Texas Cup race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The first race in the second round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is scheduled Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

Twelve drivers are racing for eight spots in the next round. Chase Elliott leads the standings by 15 over Joey Logano entering Sunday’s 500-mile event, the only Cup points race at TMS this year. Ryan Blaney, who is in the playoff group, won the All-Star Race at the track in May.

Chase Briscoe, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez and Austin Cindric are below the cutline entering the 3:30 p.m. ET (USA Network) race.

MORE: Big race celebration? Try Waffle House

The playoffs will continue at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9).

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway:

START: The command to start engines will be given by “Top Gun: Maverick” actors Jay Ellis and Lewis Pullman at 3:38 p.m. (ET) … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Bret Shisler of Texas Alliance Raceway Ministries at 3:30 p.m. … The 1st Cavalry Division Band will perform the anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 334 laps (501 miles) on the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 105. Stage 2 ends at Lap 210.

MORE: Ryan Blaney’s team to appeal penalty

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 2:30 p.m. on USA Network. The post-race show will air on USA Network. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and also will stream at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy skies. High of 96 with a 5% chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Kyle Larson won by .459 of a second over William Byron last October. Larson led 256 of the race’s 334 laps.

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