Clint Bowyer’s career resurgence in 2017 took another step forward on Monday as the Emporia, Kansas native was able to leave Monday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway with a second place finish, his best finish since a third place result at Auto Club Speedway last month.
Bowyer started the day in ninth place, but was unable to finish inside the top-10 in either the first or second stage as he battled handling issues that had him hanging onto the lead lap. On lap 326, things went from bad to worse for Bowyer as he was caught speeding on pit road, dropping him to the tail end of the lead lap on the ensuing restart.
As the laps wound down, Bowyer slowly, but surely, made his way back toward the top-10, but it was a call from crew chief Mike Bugarewicz during the final set of pit stops that put Bowyer on four fresh tires for the final restart.
Over the final 32 laps, Bowyer was able to climb up to second place and set his sights on race leader Jimmie Johnson, pulling to within one second of Johnson’s Chevrolet, but in the end, that would be as close as he would get, finishing the race 1.199 seconds behind the seven-time champion.
“What a day,” said Bowyer. “Starting off, I was way too loose and fell way back, just missed it. You know, heck, last car on the lead lap. Mike made some great adjustments all day long. The pit crew was on their game all day long and gained spots almost every time, and then I lost them all back on pit road speeding. Went to the back again, and then drove back up through them and got ourselves some position there.”
“Mike made a good call of putting me in a position of one of the first cars on four tires there. I think the 48 was the other one, and he won the race, so the right strategy was there. The team effort was there. You know, that’s what a weekend is all about. It’s just been this long since I’ve won a race, and here is pretty special. It would have been pretty cool to be over there in Victory Lane.”
Even though Bowyer had nothing to hang his head about after scoring his first second place finish since Richmond in the spring of 2013, he still noted that it was frustrating to come so close, only to have to settle for a runner-up finish.
“Sucks,” he added. “It is frustrating, you could see him (Johnson) out there, but dammit, you’d think he’d get tired of winning all these races.”