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Final turn: Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards trade places in NASCAR bridesmaid role

Kansas City-area NASCAR drivers Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards are both hoping for better seasons in 2013, but for very different reasons.

Emporia, Kan., favorite son Clint Bowyer wasn't at all happy the way his race ended a week ago, after being intentionally wrecked very late in the race by NASCAR veteran and four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon, but he was of a different mindset this past weekend, finishing second in the Chase for the Cup finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and resulting in a hard-earned runner-up placement in the final 2012 Sprint Cup standings.

Bowyer started off Sunday's Sprint Cup season finale in fourth place in the Chase standings, and by coming in second to Gordon in the Ford EcoBoost 400, the native Kansan was able to vault two spots in the standings and finish behind this year's Sprint Cup champion, Brad Keselowski.

"It's huge," Bowyer said. "To end up second in the points, I had to beat a lot of guys. I had to beat guys like Jimmie Johnson to do it. I just wish there were several races where if I had them to do over again, I could do some things differently."

This marks the first time since 2004 that someone not named Johnson or Tony Stewart has won Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Bowyer said he would have really liked to have caught Gordon in the final laps, but not necessarily for the reasons everyone might have been thinking, he said. He was more interested, he said, in trying to capture his fourth win of the 2012 season.

"We had a decent car. We didn't have the strongest car, but we had a really good cat," Bowyer said. "I'm frustrated and bummed out (about Sunday's race at Homestead). I would have loved to have won that race, especially by beating (Gordon), but to end up second in the race and second in points, it's satisfying."

All things considered, 2012 turned out to be a great year for the driver of the No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota Camry, his first driving for Michael Waltrip Racing after seven seasons at Richard Childress Racing. Bowyer's second-place finish in points this season is his highest finish in the Sprint Cup Series standings in his eight-year NASCAR career. He finished third in points in 2007, fifth in 2008 and 10th in 2010, all under the Childress banner.

Bowyer posted 10 top-five finishes and 23 top-10s this season. In his next best Sprint Cup season, in 2008, he had seven top-fives and only 17 top-10s over the 36-race schedule.

One driver who knows exactly how Bowyer feels is his friend and fellow NASCAR driver from the Kansas City area, Carl Edwards. Edwards has come in second in the season-ending Chase for the Cup on two occasions, in 2008 and again in 2011. Edwards, from Columbia, Mo., and his Roush-Fenway race team were hoping for a much better result in 2012 than the No. 99 car's 15th-place finish in points and outside of the Chase for the Cup qualifiers for the first time in six years.

Edwards finished in the top 10 in 26 out of the 36 races a year ago, and 19 of those were top-five finishes. By comparison, in 2012, the Missouri native had only 13 top-10s all season and finished in the top five only three times.

Edwards, who finished xx in the NASCAR season-finale Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, has now gone winless in his last 69 Sprint Cup races, dating back to March 2011, when he won at Las Vegas Speedway. He has 19 wins in the Sprint Cup Series in his eighth full years of NASCAR racing, nine of which came in 2008 alone.

"I like winning a lot," Edwards said. "I miss that, so we've just got to get back to it. The only way we're going to get back there is with hard work."

After a terrific year in 2011, it has been difficult and discouraging to deal with all the on-track problems the No, 99 Ford encountered this season. "I will never let myself get used to running like this," Edwards said. "

So with another NASCAR season in the books, and all the highlights and lowlights of a nine-month racing season committed to memory, its back to the garage and on to the award season until the call of "start your engines" and the green flag drops in mid-February next year at Daytona Speedway to begin an all new season of NASCAR car racing.

Visit the NASCAR website for the latest news and developments pertaining to the Sprint Cup Series and the 2012 Chase for the Cup.