Clint Bowyer eyes playoff run while working on 2021 plans

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Clint Bowyer, whose contract expires after this season, says that as long as he’s “a part of this sport in any way, shape or form, I’m excited about it.”

Bowyer is the only Cup driver at Stewart-Haas Racing not under contract for next season. News that Aric Almirola and sponsor  Smithfield will be back for 2021 came out this week. Kevin Harvick revealed in February that he had extended his contract through the 2023 season. Cole Custer is completing his first year with the team.

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I want to race and I want to be in a race car,” Bowyer said in July when asked about other opportunities, including broadcasting for 2021. “I love competing. I love being pissed off at the end of the race. I love being happy at the end of the race. I love that adrenaline of lining up next to that guy and wondering how in the hell you’re going to come off the Turn 2 ahead of him and that’s a feeling that can’t be replaced.”

Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition at Stewart-Haas Racing, said this week that the team will “hopefully have the same lineup we do this year back.”

The 41-year-old Bowyer is in his fourth season at Stewart-Haas Racing after he was selected to take over the No. 14 car for Tony Stewart.

If Bowyer were not to return, there could be other options for SHR. Ford Xfinity drivers Chase Briscoe (Stewart-Haas Racing) and Austin Cindric (Team Penske) also have said they are unsure of where they’ll race in 2021. Their success this year could make them a candidate for a Cup ride.

Also, Erik Jones remains among drivers seeking a ride for next season. Kyle Larson remains indefinitely suspended but Stewart has publicly supported reinstatement for Larson.

Bowyer said Wednesday he’s focused on the playoffs, which begin with Sunday’s Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

He enters the playoffs seeded 13th with 2004 points in his first season with crew chief Johnny Klausmeier. The top 12 in points after first-round races at Darlington, Richmond and Bristol advance to the second round.

“It’s new life,” Bowyer said.

And a chance to learn from mistakes.

We’ve shown our capabilities,” Bowyer said. “We’ve run up front. We’ve won stages. We’ve led laps … but we’ve made mistakes. Now, we have a notebook of what not to do and we’ve got to put it to good use within these playoffs.”