By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The first driver confirmed eliminated from competing for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship was Clint Bowyer after crashing out in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, finishing 35th.
Entering Turn 4, Bowyer was running in seventh before the left-rear of his No. 14 ITsavvy Ford Fusion went down, resulting in him going up the track and slamming the wall. The impact destroyed the back end of his car, but worse of all, any shot of a championship opportunity.
“I guess we cut a left-rear tire down,” Bowyer on what may have caused his accident. “I don’t know if it’s a product of being able to get down on the back straightaway off the race track like that. At the end of the day it’s pretty unique. We travel all across the country running on race tracks that we race on the race track and this one we spend more time off of it. It’s fun to be able to do that, but I don’t know.”
Bowyer shared his frustrations towards Goodyear tires, which he felt it has caused harm when cars drive down the apron. On the other hand, his wish list doesn’t include a more durable tire, feeling that it won’t make a difference due to the ideal lane to run at the 1.022-mile circuit is below the apron, which he felt Goodyear can’t build one to accommodate the circuit.
“It’s just a difficult deal. I’m not really a big fan of the tires that we’re running nowadays anyway,” said Bowyer. “It seems like if we have trouble the first thing we do is go to a more durable tire, and then, in my opinion, that durable tire is always worse for racing, and then all of a sudden you have trouble here.”
“I hope that doesn’t mean we have to go to a more durable tire because I don’t think what happened – at the end of the day you’re running off the race track. Goodyear can’t build a tire that’s designed to run off a race track. You go down there bounce in through it. It’s been that way since they repaved it and it’s just kind of the nature of the beast now. Obviously with the restart situation where it’s at and everything else everything is a learning process, but it is kind of a bummer. More than likely that’s probably what happened.”
Bowyer’s left-rear tire going south was the second incident of the afternoon as Joey Logano, who will be competing in the Championship 4 at Homestead, also fell out of the race as a result of a flat tire.
“After I saw the 22 and then felt my left-rear go, maybe that was a product of that,” said Bowyer. “We’ve run low air on these short tracks like this on our left sides and maybe that was it. It’s just kind of the way our Playoffs are going. It’s frustrating.”
This season will be remembered as a renaissance for the Emporia, Kansas native, scoring two wins at both the spring race at Martinsville, and the rain-shortened race at Michigan. However, the second half of the season has been up and down, especially in the Round of 8 where he’s struggled to finish in the top-20, and with his sixth retirement of the season.
Regardless of recent struggles, Bowyer is still proud of the No. 14 team’s effort despite not advancing into the final round.
“We’ve had a great year getting to where we were part of this Playoff situation and being in contention to be able to run for a championship. There’s a lot of pride with Mike (Bugarewicz) and all the guys on the 14 car,” said Bowyer. “It’s been a lot of fun to go to battle each and every week all across the country with these guys. Stewart-Haas, I can’t say enough about the job the men and women have done at Stewart-Haas getting all four cars in the Playoffs and then obviously winning and being in Victory Lane, and everything Ford and everybody involved has done for us.
“I’m proud of our season, bummed for our day. It’s always fun to come out here to Phoenix. It’s a hell of a crowd today, appreciate everybody coming out. Unfortunately, we were a caution. You never want to be a caution.”