Rebounding from starting 25th and failing to advance from the first round of another controversial qualifying session, Bowyer finished a season-best second Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway and then took a playful shot at race officials
“Unclogged,” Bowyer told reporters with a laugh when asked how he felt after his second top five of the season and first since Feb. 24 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “We definitely unclogged ourselves from qualifying.”
It was a not-so-subtle reference to his displeasure with NASCAR after feeling he was blocked by Ryan Newman during qualifying. A directive was issued last week warning drivers against “clogging” the middle lane in the pits. Newman wasn’t penalized.
“I read the rulebook again, which you have to be about a lawyer to read anymore, and you’re not supposed to clog the middle, and I couldn’t tell if that was an acceptable amount of clog, or not enough clogging or what kind of clogging level that was,” he said Friday to FS1 after earning his second-worst starting spot of the year. “Because at a certain point of cloggingness of the middle lane, you will get disallowed of your time is how I read that.”
By Sunday, Bowyer had shook it off, and his No. 14 Ford capably navigated traffic over 500 miles on the 1.5-mile oval.
Though he didn’t earn any stage points, Bowyer and crew chief Mike Bugarewicz played strategy well and finished 2.743 seconds behind winner Denny Hamlin.
“(The car) wasn’t lightning fast all day long, but as they started slip sliding around and struggling we’d kind of prevail on those long runs,” Bowyer said. “All in all, I’m really happy to finish where we were. What a wild race. Just about the time you think you’re going to have some stage points the caution would come out and then you thought you were back in, and it happened again. Then you’re like, ‘Well, damn. What kind of haymakers are going to be thrown at the end?’, and it just didn’t.
“Anytime you finish second it’s like, ‘What could I have done?’ When (Hamlin) came out of the pits that far ahead of us I was like, ‘We’re in big trouble,’ but second is not bad for the way our weekend started.”
It actually was a major improvement for a driver who has felt burned multiple times by group qualifying the past few years as NASCAR has sorted out how to make the system work with drafting and the 2019 rules package.
“We had to unclog ourselves,” Bowyer told FS1 with a smile. “Once we unclogged ourselves, we were really good.”