By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
FORT WORTH, Texas – Clint Bowyer faces a must-win scenario after enduring a miserable 26th-place finish in the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The 39-year-old Kansas native was optimistic heading into Sunday’s race after qualifying second – a personal best at the 1.5-mile oval. A dream of advancing from the Round of 8 and into the Championship 4 quickly turned into a nightmare.
Pole sitter Ryan Blaney took off as the green flag waved, with the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil Delvac 1 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing of Bowyer alongside.
As the field barreled into Turn 1, Bowyer was in close confines with teammate and eventual race winner Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. Bowyer and Hamlin ended up making contact and both suffered slight damage and were forced to make an unscheduled pit stop under green flag conditions.
This pushed Bowyer two laps down with an ill-handling car the remainder of opening stage. By the time the checkered flag waved, he was three laps down with one of his worst finishes of the season.
To make matters worse, Bowyer now finds himself last among the Round of 8, sitting 73 points below the cutoff line held.
“That stinks,” Bowyer confessed. “First corner of the race. I’m sick. It wasn’t what we were hoping for today. We were having to turn right to get into the corner and were plowing in the middle. I think something was going on with the car when it was getting in the corner.
The final race to decide the Championship 4 takes place next Sunday at ISM Raceway in Phoenix. The climb is a steep one as Bowyer has zero wins and only two top five finishes in 26 starts, including a runner-up finish which came a decade ago.
Despite the odds, he remains motivated to punch his ticket and battle for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
We’ll go to Phoenix and try to win,” he added.
“This isn’t over yet.”