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Bowyer running out of time for Chase
For Clint Bowyer, 2011 has been a struggle.
And Friday's qualifying effort of 35th didn't help the driver, who is currently 11th in the point standings. But without a win, Bowyer could be on the outside looking in for this year's Chase for the Championship.
Bowyer currently trails 10th-place Tony Stewart by 25-points. He was as high as seventh in the standings following Richmond but has slowly slid down board — following consecutive DNFs at Daytona and Kentucky. Still, Bowyer feels that no one outside of the top 10 is secure with four races remaining before the Chase.
"The way the sport is right now, everyone is vulnerable," Bowyer said. "Everybody is having good races, everyone is having bad races. It's because of gambles and gambling on the race track paying off. Look at Brad Keselowski, it's probably put him in the Chase because of some very risky gambles, but, hey, they paid off.
"If it had rained at Pocono, he'd have been a zero. If we got back going, he was going to be a hero."
Certainly, Bowyer's contract negotiations have become a distraction. While everyone believed that Bowyer's deal with Richard Childress Racing would be finalized once Carl Edwards was signed, that has happened.
"It's been a distraction for everybody," Bowyer said. "That's the tough thing — trying to go through this. It's not backburner right now, but it is for the next few races. We've got some important business to take care of and that's item No. 1.
"I'm working on two things — my future, but first and foremost I'm working on these next four races."
Although Bowyer says he'd like to stay the course at RCR, insiders at the Welcome, N.C. operation say his contract requests have been steep.
One player in the mix could be under the Blue Oval. Sources say that Bowyer met with Ford officials on Thursday in Michigan. And it's no secret Bowyer has spoke with a variety of owners in the garage.
Andy Murstein, a partner of Richard Petty Motorsports and president of Medallion Financial, has expressed interest in Bowyer since January. His stance hadn't changed on Friday afternoon.
"When a driver like Clint becomes available we are always interested," Murstein said by email. "He's very talented and would be a great addition to any team. If we want to take RPM to the next level, and as evidenced by this weeks race at the Glen we certainly do, you have to at least explore opportunities like this. It's not every day a top 12 driver is available."
Bowyer understands that qualifying for the Chase is key to his market value in the NASCAR garage. Although the 31-year-old Emporia, Kansas native has just four career Cup wins, he's qualified for three of the last four Chases.
"Being a part of the Chase always increases a driver's value — his brand," Bowyer said. "That's so important in any sport — is your brand. You have to be able to carry yourself on and off the racetrack and we've been able to do that. Because of that, I've always had good rides with good people surrounding you and that's the most important thing."
Although Biffle admits he doesn't "like Boris either," Friday's polesitter put Watkins Glen in his rearview mirror and concentrated on the task at hand — tackling Michigan.
Biffle's lap of 190.345mph clinched his first pole in 117 starts — since Dover in June 2008. Biffle shares the front row with Matt Kenseth. It's the second time this season that Roush Fenway Racing cars started one-two. David Ragan and Carl Edwards pulled off the feat at Texas, where Kenseth picked up his first of two wins in 2011.
While Kenseth and Edwards are firmly in Chase for the championship contention, Biffle is currently 49-points outside of the Top 10 in the point standings — and winless. Still, Biffle has two wins at Michigan and called the pole "a big morale boost."
"We have to have a win to get in the Chase, that is obvious," Biffle said. "Here, Bristol and Atlanta are good tracks for us. I think this is probably our best and this may be our best opportunity. Here or Atlanta. This is a huge deal for us and huge momentum for us going into Sunday."
NASCAR has told engine builders that three tests are tentatively planned to work on fuel injection during the remainder of the season.
The three dates include: October 17 at Charlotte, October 20 at Talladega and October 31 at Martinsville.
Some teams have also petitioned NASCAR to open up testing at Nashville but since the track is currently on this year's schedule, it might not be opened until next year.