Will Bowyer return to Childress in 2012
It doesn't sound as if Clint Bowyer will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.
Neither driver or car owner delcared talks totally over, but both sounded Thursday as if there's little chance they'll come to an agreement to keep Bowyer behind the wheel of the No. 33 Chevrolet after this year.
Childress even referred to Bowyer in the past tense several times while talking about the driver in an an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
''You know, we've tried and we've really worked really hard to put the deal together to keep Clint,'' Childress said. ''It's not 100 percent off the table, but it's getting tougher and tougher as the day goes by. Clint's got a couple of really good opportunities there facing him. We just, for us, it just didn't seem that we could get everything worked out.
''Clint's still a good friend. I want the best for him.''
Bowyer has repeatedly said he wants a three-year contract extension to stay with RCR, but talks have seemed strained over the last month. Bowyer two weeks ago even expressed frustration over the free agency process and lashed out at how he was being characterized in the media of late.
He called Childress' Thursday comments ''fair'' and said there's no updates in his situation. Bowyer made his Cup debut with Childress in 2005 and has won four races in 206 career starts.
''There's opportunities and stuff we're just trying to weigh out and, again, you've got to have all the stars line up,'' Bowyer said. ''You can't just have one piece of the puzzle or a couple pieces of the puzzle. You have to have the whole puzzle put together and that's how you do that in today's world and you're wasting your time talking about it to any media because you don't really have anything to deliver to them.''
Bowyer's long-term future uncertain, he seemed to have a good indication of the present: He declared his chances of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship over.
''Even if we win, it's still, good God, I think it takes a mathematician to make all the stars lined up, so I'm not really worried about (the Chase),'' Bowyer said.
Bowyer arrived for Saturday night's race at Richmond International Raceway - the last event before the Chase begins - ranked 14th in the standings. To make the 12-driver field, Bowyer would have to win and need outside help. He'd need either Brad Keselowski to knock Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Tony Stewart outside of the top 10, or for the victory to push him ahead of Denny Hamlin in the standings.
That was just one of the many scenarios laid out by NASCAR as a record 14 drivers go into Saturday night's race with a chance to make the Chase under the new wild card format. The final two spots in the field this year are earmarked for drivers outside the top 10 with the most victories, so long as the drivers are ranked 20th or higher.
The two holding down the wild cards heading into the final race were Keselowski and Hamlin, and Keselowski is technically locked in by virtue of his three victories. Hamlin, though, only has one win this season and is ranked 12th in points.
''Winning is everything and we come here with the mind-set that we need to win,'' said Hamlin, who has won this race the last two years and has been the most dominant driver at Richmond dating back to 2008. He led the first 381 laps of the event but lost the race when he suffered a flat tire with 19 to go.
That opened the door for a surprise winner - Bowyer, who pounced when Kyle Busch and Earnhardt wrecked each other racing for the lead. He's not sure if he can get back to Victory Lane on Saturday night and save his season.
''It would be big to get the turned around, finally, and get a win for our race team,'' he said. ''This is a track where we can get it done, we've got a good car and we're ready to go to work.''
NASCAR on Thursday brought in 11 of the 14 drivers capable of making the Chase, which Bowyer called ''a hell of a publicity stunt.'' When Kasey Kahne entered the room, he joked with him and asked him ''are you a longshot as well?''
''I didn't even know I had a shot,'' Kahne replied.
But the appearances did give Mark Martin an opportunity to respond to allegations from Regan Smith that he intentionally wrecked Smith at Atlanta.
''Wow I just saw the replay, I was wondering if it was intentional at the time. Now there's no doubt in my mind,'' Smith posted on his Twitter page after Tuesday's race. ''A driver as talented as Mark doesn't just take a right turn going in a straight line. We had contact on a restart 10 laps prior, racing deal each continued on no harm no foul The wreck following was no racing deal.''
Asked about the allegations, Martin initially dismissed the discussion by flatly offering ''We had an accident.''
He perked up, though, when asked if it was similar to an incident he had earlier this summer at Michigan with teammate Earnhardt, and if the 52-year-old driver is refusing to take any (incidents) on the race track.
''With the way the racing has become today, the double-file restarts, how equal the cars are, it's pushed everyone to really a whole different level of driving then it used to. So part of that requires less sportsmanship and more me, more selfishness and less sportsmanship,'' Martin said. ''I'm falling right in there with the gang. The deal with Dale Jr. was a complete and total accident, and I took responsibility for that accident. I thought that I was going to get off the corner ahead of him and he got there sooner than I thought he would. I'll just say again, these restarts, they're getting pretty tough.
''I'm not going to be run into. I'm not going to be run into. I don't run into people and people aren't going to get away with running into me.''