By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
It was a ‘there and back again’ kind of day for Clint Bowyer as he overcame two pit road speeding penalties to finish the STP 500 inside the top-10.
Following his second speeding penalty of the day, Bowyer tore through the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series field at Martinsville Speedway. In the closing laps, his No. 14 Mobil 1 / Rush Truck Centers Ford Mustang was the center of a heated battle with Martin Truex, Jr.
The duo battled for the better part of 20 laps. Bowyer ultimately prevailed over Truex. He took the checkered flag in seventh-place and earned just his second top-10 finish of the season. Bowyer, along with the bulk of the field, were far from the battle for the win between Brad Keselowski, the race winner, Chase Elliott, and Kyle Busch.
“I don’t think anybody obviously had anything for the 2 or the 9 made some adjustments there early and was really fast,” Bowyer explained. “I think we were a top three car for sure. We just have to quit beating ourselves.”
Twice in a 100-lap span, Bowyer was penalized for speeding entering pit road. Both on lap 314 and 374, while the race was under caution, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver was forced to drop to the tail-end of the longest line. Bowyer had climbed back into the top-10 before the second speeding penalty.
“I guess we need to get our stuff together on being on the same page with that pit road speed,” Bowyer admitted. “It’s such an important thing and such a big part of this style of racing, where track position is everything. We push it to the limit, but it’s so hard to practice pit road speed.
“You’ve got trucks on pit road when you’re trying to practice that. I’m not making any excuses, it’s just when you’re trying to pinch every little thing out of it, it was hard this week to practice pit road speed because of all the stuff on pit road.”
Bowyer, who was coming off of a ‘West Coast Swing’ that he’d like to forget, ran well for the bulk of the 500-lap race. One year removed from winning this race, he qualified 10th, setting up a top-10 run early at ‘The Paperclip.’ Bowyer finished the first two stages in sixth and eighth respectively.
After the seventh-place finish, Bowyer moved from 15th in the championship standings to 13th. He is 116-points behind points leader Busch. Bowyer is also 23-points ahead of the cut-off for the playoffs, currently held by his SHR teammate, Daniel Suarez.