By David Morgan, Associate Editor
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Clint Bowyer heads into Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway clinging onto the last place in the Playoffs for dear life with just three races left in the regular season.
After finishes of 20th or worse in three of the last four events, any misstep by the driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford could spell doom for his hopes of making it into the postseason with a chance to contend for the championship.
“Snakebit is how I’m feeling,” Bowyer said. “Every time I get that feeling you’re in a good place, just ride right here, something happens. A flat tire in Watkins leading up to last weekend. Things were going good and we were gonna put probably a 30-point pad on what we needed to. I mean, literally just trying to get to the end of the thing and survive and couldn’t, so snakebit, I’m definitely feeling that.”
Despite the back and forth of whether he’ll make the Playoffs at the conclusion of the regular season, Bowyer noted that if he makes it in, he doesn’t want to just be there to be a placeholder, he wants to be a factor for the title.
“I don’t want to just go to the Playoffs,” Bowyer said. “I remember the Chiefs, they go to the Playoffs the first round and they’re out. That sucked. I want to be in it to the end and win a championship.
“You go to the Playoffs to win a championship. You don’t go to the Playoffs just to get your picture taken with the Playoff group. It’s a business. There’s money on the line. There’s prestige on the line. There’s trophies on the line and a big damn trophy at the end of it with a huge check.
“That is what you go to the Playoffs for, so finishing to our capabilities, yes, when I say we’re not a 16th-place team, we’re not. We’ve shown our capabilities. We run in the top five, but the reality is we are right now and it’s because of lack of finishes, DNFs, and things like that and not finishing to our capabilities and that’s what we’ve got to get ironed out and we’ve got three races to do it.”
If there was a place to turn things around and right the ship, Bristol could very well be the place to do it. Despite finishing practice outside the top-10 – he timed in 16th and 11th, respectively in the two sessions – Bowyer has run strong at the famed high-banked half-mile throughout his career.
In six of his last eight starts at the track, Bowyer has finished inside the top-10, as well as leading 120 laps in this race one year ago en route to a sixth-place finish. On Saturday night, the Emporia, Kansas native will roll off 20th.
“Anybody that hates this place shouldn’t be in racing because this is the mecca of all race tracks,” Bowyer said of his admiration with Bristol. “This is the granddaddy of them all. There’s no question. Look at this place. Look at the grandstands.
“I mean, there’s nothing like this place and tracks like this we need all across the country. A fan, if they want to be a fan of this sport, they need to learn short track racing and they need to learn of Bristol Motor Speedway. There’s not a fan, a family member, a friend, anybody that I know that I wouldn’t point in the direction of Bristol Motor Speedway, so as a racer on the race track it’s no different.
When asked if there was anything in particular about Bristol that makes it really special, the always animated Bowyer was quick with an answer.
“Just the unknown, being able to go for it, being able to not worry about an aero push or horsepower deficit or whatever the case may be – get ahold of the steering wheel, get ahold of the gas pedal and make something happen and this is a track where you can do that.”