Clint Bowyer has been relatively quiet in his nine starts this season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, with just one top-five finish (fourth at Bristol) and four top-10s. The Emporia, Kan., native currently sits in 12th place in the drivers' point standings, and he knows he has to improve on that if he wants to be in the field in the season-ending Chase for the Cup come September.
This weekend at Talladega Superspeedway could be just the time and place for Bowyer if he wants to start his assault on the Sprint Cup leaders and move up on the driver leaderboard.
"I just want to get down there and hopefully have the same success we've had over the past couple of years," Bowyer said earlier this week. "Talladega is good to me. I've had a lot of fun there, and I can't think of anything bigger than a win in Talladega, Alabama, with the Alabama car."
The Alabama car that Bowyer is referring to is the No, 15 Toyota Camry that he drives in his first year as a member of the Michael Waltrip Racing team. Aaron's, the national leader in the sales and leasing of residential and office furniture, consumer electronics and home appliances, is title sponsor of Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Talladega (the Aaron's 499) and also is the lead sponsor of Bowyer's Alabama National Championship Toyota for this race, honoring Alabama's victory in the BCS Championship game in New Orleans in January.
The irony in this is that, growing up in Emporia, Bowyer is a diehard supporter of the Kansas Jayhawks. He attended the Final Four NCAA Championship game last month, also in New Orleans, where Kansas lost to Kentucky. For this one weekend, however, the Emporia native son will be all Alabama. He will wear a fire suit in Alabama's crimson and white colors and his car will carry an Alabama paint scheme.
"I'm certainly a KU fan, but I respect all athletics and certainly respect what they've (Alabama) accomplished in the past years," said Bowyer. "It's going to be fun to have the Alabama colors for one day."
The success at Talladega Bowyer talked about is winning two of the last three Sprint Cup races at the superspeedway of the South (in the fall in both 2010 and 2011), and finishing second to Jimmie Johnson in the third (at this race a year ago).
Sunday will be Bowyer's 13th start at Talladega, NASCAR's longest racing oval at a length of 2.66 miles. In addition to his two wins there, he has four top-fives and six top-10s. So it is easy to understand why Bowyer, who will turn 33 at the end of this month, feels so comfortable and confident about racing at Talladega.
Bowyer trails 10th-place Ryan Newman of Stewart-Haas Racing by 14 points and is just 23 back of Kansas City's other hometown favorite, Carl Edwards, in ninth place in the standings.
Bowyer made the Chase in three of his first five seasons with Richard Childress Racing, but he did not make the field last season, finishing 13th. "It's going to be very, very gratifying to be able to do that (be among the 12 qualifiers who make the Chase for the Cup field) with a new team," Bowyer said..
"If you're in (the top 10 automatic qualifiers), you're in it because you've been solid from the green flag at Daytona all the way to Richmond. It wasn't because you had a good run for three or four weeks," he said.
It seems that Bowyer will have everything going for him in the Aaron's 499 on Sunday: an Alabama Crimson Tide livery for the No. 15 car on an Alabama racetrack, where the Kansas native has won or finished second in his previous three races at the same venue.
Sounds like pretty strong odds to me. Now if only the race car can come through.
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