Bowyer parlays patience and road course skills into Round of 12

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 29: Clint Bowyer, driver of the #14 Rush/Cummins Ford, races during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on September 29, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Clint Bowyer had to restrain himself from his typically aggressive approach to driving in the monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and it paid off on Sunday with a berth in the Round of 12 of the series Playoffs.

After a disappointing 25th-place finish—from the pole, no less—in the opening Playoff race at Las Vegas two weeks ago, Bowyer came to the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course four points below the cut line for advancement to the next round.

But Bowyer qualified fifth on Friday and exercised patience where necessary throughout Sunday’s race to secure a fourth-place result and a trip to the next round.

“We did what we had to do,” said Bowyer, who enters the Round of 12 seeded 12th, with no Playoff points to his credit. “We knew what we had to do all weekend long. We knew we had to dig ourselves out of a hole we put ourselves in at Vegas. We had a good weekend last weekend (eighth at Richmond) and had a great weekend this weekend.

“Coulda, woulda, shoulda—maybe a little bit more aggressive on those restarts, but, again, you could have got yourself wrecked, too. When it got down there to the end and we got our stage points and got ourselves in contention and was where we needed to be, it was time to re-evaluate your situation and where you were running and just protect. We were in protection mode.”

Having finished third in each of the first two stages, Bowyer had scored 16 stage points, but discretion was the better part of valor when it came to battling race winner Chase Elliott and runner-up Alex Bowman in the closing stages of the race. Bowyer felt a rash of cautions in the final stage hurt the chances of Kevin Harvick, his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate. Harvick ran third after losing the top spot with five laps left.

“That 9 (Elliott) and the 88 (Bowman) coming on those tires, man—it seems like every cycle would hurt old tires. I think if we could have got back green, I honestly think Kevin would have won the race. I don’t know what, just heat-soaked or whatever else, we were a good bit slower after those cycles than we were before them, so I was bummed out for Kevin.

“He dominated that race and was up front all day long and looked to deliver Stewart-Haas our first Roval win, but I’m proud of everybody’s efforts. It was a team effort for sure, all across the board. We worked together, practiced well, leaned on each other when we needed to and was courteous to one another on restarts, and that’s the way a four-car team needs to work.”

Greg Engle