When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars lined up for a restart on Lap 137, Clint Bowyer was in an enviable position.
His No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford was running 18th, with fresh tires, and one of his chief rivals for a berth in the series Playoffs, Jimmie Johnson, was eight laps down after early contact with the outside wall.
Less that a lap later, Bowyer’s race fell apart. After contact with Paul Menard’s Ford, Bowyer’s car shot into the outside wall, damaging the Mustang beyond repair. After a failed attempt to get the car up to speed, the clock ran out on the team’s attempts to fix the No. 14 Ford.
Bowyer’s 37th-place finish left him tied with Ryan Newman for the final Playoff-eligible position—on a day when merely staying out of trouble could have earned him a significant advantage.
“Somebody got in the back of me,” Bowyer said. “When I went around, I just saw (Alex) Bowman, and thought it was him. I guess maybe the 21 (Menard) or somebody. As soon as it happened, I was just along for the ride. I don’t know. We have to get something figured out with these race tracks.
“We are really fast by ourselves, practice and qualifying really well, in the top five almost every single time but then we start the race and don’t make the grip we need to compete. We definitely need to find some things out. You can talk about the bubble and worrying about points, but I am way more worried about getting established and running up front at these types of race tracks.
“If you make the Playoffs and can’t compete in it, then what’s the use? We have some things to work out. We have some time. We have some good race tracks for us including Bristol coming up. We have plenty of racing, but we have to get some things figured out.”