Photo: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Third Place Run Gives Bowyer His Best Finish of the Season

By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor

It may have taken him nearly two years, but Clint Bowyer finally made it back into the top-five at the end of a race after finishing third in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

Bowyer had not finished in the top-five since finishing fifth at the 2015 Bristol night race, a drought of 52 races, but with Stewart-Haas power behind him, Bowyer is definitely back to having fun behind the wheel again.

“It was just a good weekend,” said Bowyer.  “I appreciate everybody’s hard work at Stewart-Haas Racing.  Having these teammates and having this group behind you, the organization and the teamwork, it’s just amazing to be a part of it at this point in my career.  Thanks to Rush Truck Centers for making this possible.  Gene Haas and Tony Stewart for giving me this opportunity.  It means a lot to me to be in this 14.”

“I have a lot of fun with these guys.  Buga and all these guys mean business.  It’s a confidence thing right now, a momentum-builder and we’re getting closer.  Obviously, this is a good track for me.  I wanted to win that damn thing, but to come home with the wild finish and everything that it was, we’ll take it.”

After crashing out of the season-opening Daytona 500, Bowyer turned things up a notch in the three races to follow, finishing in or just outside of the top-10 in all three events, but when his No. 14 team rolled into Fontana, they upped their performance even further.

Starting the day in 17th, Bowyer finished the first stage inside the top-10 as he was sixth on the leaderboard at lap 60. The second stage provided more of the same, with Bowyer able to crack the top-five and finish the second stage in fourth place.

Keeping his car in the top-10 throughout the majority of the final stage, Bowyer restarted in sixth place on the final restart in overtime and made the most of the wide, sweeping turns of the California track. As the field fanned out through Turns 1 and 2, Bowyer kept his foot in the gas on the outside and powered his way into second place by the time the field reached the backstretch. Though he would lose second place to Brad Keselowski shortly thereafter, he was still able to keep a stranglehold on third place to bring home his best finish of the season.

When asked if he saw Sunday’s finish coming, Bowyer answered as only Bowyer can, saying: “Hell yeah.  It better be coming.  When you’ve got a team like this that’s organized and as good as they are, it better be.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.