Clint Bowyer‘s day at Chicagoland Speedway started off great and nose-dived before he recovered for his third consecutive top-five finish.
Bowyer had been leading the Overton’s 400 when he pitted for the first time on Lap 39.
But the No. 14 Ford was called for speeding, resulting in a pass thru penalty.
However, Bowyer was caught speeding again as he exited pit road.
After not having any speeding penalties in the first 16 races, Bowyer had two in a matter of minutes.
“The guys work very hard on making sure that they are pushing the envelope, which you have to do in this world and against this competition,” Bowyer said. “You have to push everything. Certainly pit road is a big part of that. You are splitting hairs out there on the race track down to the tenths of a second and you can gain seconds on pit road. Obviously our pit road speed was just a little too fast. We practiced it yesterday and the guys even made some adjustments but that tight section down there was just too fast.”
The second time speeding is supposed to result in a stop-and-go penalty. But while serving the second penalty on Lap 48, Bowyer did not stop.
Bowyer then had to make a third visit to pit road after his initial stop. Afterward he was two laps down.
“The first time you second-guess yourself,” Bowyer said. “You come down the second time and you are cautious and speed again so now you know you’ve got a problem. Then it was just confusion on my part. I wasn’t listening and made a mistake and cost us a third time down. We got good at pitting today, unfortunately.”
But through stage cautions and natural cautions, the free pass put Bowyer back on the lead lap once the caution came out for debris on Lap 129.
Bowyer, who won two races ago at Michigan, powered his way to a fifth-place finish, his third in as many races. The only other time he has had three consecutive top fives was in 2013 (Sonoma, Kentucky and Daytona).
“Add a fast car and a bit of a pissed-off attitude and it is amazing what you can do,” said Bowyer, who led twice for 21 laps.
Bowyer now has six top fives, matching his total from last season.
“The capabilities there to run with these three guys (Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.),” Bowyer said. “Our race team is young and making some mistakes but we have time to gain on those and build on those. You hate to give away those stage points. I think we could have won both those stages and maybe been in contention for a win.”