With a streak of four consecutive finishes of 11th or better, Clint Bowyer comes into Kentucky Speedway optimistic that he will soon win his first race of 2014. And given that he was third at the bumpy 1.5-mile track here last year, he has legitimate reason for that optimism.
Saturday night, Bowyer and the rest of the field will wrestle with the Kentucky Speedway surface, the oldest pavement of any oval in NASCAR. While lots of drivers dread coming here, Bowyer thinks it could work to his advantage during the Quaker State 400, because it could sharply reduce the horsepower edge enjoyed by Hendrick Motorsports and the other teams that use Hendrick engines.
"Looking forward to overcoming the obstacles of this racetrack and that’s getting through the rough parts of the track," Bowyer said Friday morning at Kentucky. "If you can bounce through it better than the next guy — all that horsepower and everything that those other guys are enjoying right now — if you can’t put it down to the racetrack, you won’t be able to use it. Hopefully, we’ll be able to overcome that with handling."
Bowyer said the bumps really aren’t that bad, but the stiffness of the cars exacerbates the rough ride.
"The race cars are so rigid — huge springs and very, very rigid," said Bowyer, who finished Friday’s first practice a respectable 12th. "It feels like these things — you hear the old lumber wagon, you’ve rode in a one-ton pickup with nothing in it or not loaded down and it will bounce you all over the road. It’s kind of like that. It’s definitely very rough, but it’s due in part to the setups that are a big part of that."
As much as Bowyer would like to win a race and lock himself into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, he is 14th in points now and figures he has a good shot to get in, regardless of whether he wins one of the final 10 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season.
Still, winning has become an all-out priority.
"I wasn’t one of the ones that was saying, ‘It’s all about winning, it’s all about winning.’ Common sense tells you to look at the past history and the math shows you that points are always going to prevail," said Bowyer. "He who has the most points is always going to win the championship."
So Bowyer and his Michael Waltrip Racing team are pulling out all the stops this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.
"You’ve always been able to race your way into the Chase and I think it still will today, but right now we need a win," said Bowyer. "We’re at the point in our program with our 5-Hour Energy Toyota that we’re desperately in need of a win and we need to throw it all out there and go for it and try to get ourselves a win somewhere. We were definitely in the hunt and after one in Sonoma. We had a lot of confidence going in out there and we had a fast race car and by all means we were chasing a win big time."