The driver of the No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota owned by Michael Waltrip Racing was hoping to gain some ground on the leaders in the 2012 Chase for the Cup with a No. 2 starting spot at Talladega, but he got caught up in the 25-vehicle wreck that came on the 189th and final lap of the race that wiped out any chance he had. And, unfortunately, it was a very good chance.
Up to that point in time, the No. 15 car was among the race leaders and actually led the race at the restart on lap 188, but Tony Stewart got around the No. 15 to capture the lead. In trying to block Michael Waltrip, Bowyer's teammate and team owner, in the final corner, Stewart caught the front end of Waltrip's car, which triggered the mass collision involving 23 trailing cars, including Bowyer. As a result, Bowyer dropped way back to 23rd in the field, his worst finish in the three previous Chase races this year.
Matt Kenseth escaped the carnage and captured the race victory, but it still wasn't enough to move him out of the 12th and final position in the Chase standings.
"Yeah, we stubbed our toe a little bit last week at Talladega, but that is Talladega," Bowyer said. "I thought I was where I needed to be when I needed to be there, and it just didn't happen this time."
Bowyer, who hails from Emporia, Kan., was in fourth place in the Chase standings heading into Talladega, but his middle-of-the-pack finish knocked him back one spot to fifth, 40 points behind Brad Keselowski of Penske Racing, the Chase leader nearing the halfway mark in the 10-event race for the championship in NASCAR's top series.
With six races still remaining in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup, Bowyer still likes his chances, but he knows time is running short. Charlotte Motor Speedway is the site for race No, 5 in this year's Chase. Bowyer was 13th in the spring race at Charlotte this season, but historically he has done better at the fall race every year at the same track. Two of his three top-10s at Charlotte have come in the fall and 83 of his 86 laps led over 13 previous races there have been in the fall. He has averaged a 14th-place finish in the fall, compared to 21st in the spring.
Discussing the MWR strategy for the final six Chase races, Bowyer said: "We've been right up there in terms of consistency, knocking out top 10s about as good as anyone, and we've had some bad luck and some adversity that we've had to overcome.
"But if we can start turning some of those top-10s into top-fives and maybe a win or two over the last six races, we'll be right there at the end," he said.
In Bowyer's previous 13 starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he has one top-five and three top-10 finishes, all coming while with Richard Childress Racing.
Four of the final six Chase races are at intermediate tracks (Charlotte, Kansas, Texas and Homestead-Miami) like the field will encounter at 1.5 mile Charlotte on Sunday. Bowyer has never won at any of the intermediate layouts that remain on the schedule, and he must break that string if he expects to have any chance, as he says, of being there at the end.
The eight laps that the No. 15 Toyota led at Talladega last weekend gave Bowyer 200 laps led in the 30 Sprint Cup Series races so far this season, second best on the Michael Waltrip Racing team. Martin Truex Jr. is the team leader with 403 of MWR's combined 908 laps led this year.
Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, the 33-year-old Bowyer is assured of posting the highest Sprint Cup season finish for an MWR driver. The best previous finish by an MWR driver over a full season was 16th by David Reutimann in 2009.
Following this weekend at Charlotte, Bowyer and the Sprint Cup field will come to the native Kansan's home track at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., where he is still looking for his first race win to go along with one top-five and three top-10s in eight previous starts there.
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