Monday, April 2, 2012

MWR Weekly Wrap-Up: Clint Bowyer's chance at a win ends with a tap


Clint Bowyer's day ends with a 10th place finish  in what could have been his first win.

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR
Clint Bowyer is the subject of some unwanted attention from social media following the completion of the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. Bowyer was poised to claim a top-5 finish for Michael Waltrip Racing when a late race caution came after David Reutimann stalled on track. The ensuing restart resulted in wrecked racecars and finger-pointing with Bowyer one of several targets.

Reutimann’s actions were under fire by many. Why stop on track, after limping around for numerous laps? Reutimann explained after the race:

“We broke a left-front tire rod and we just needed to limp around for a couple of more laps to try to stay in the top 35 (in owner points),” he said. “I came off (Turn 4) and they said, ‘NASCAR is going to post you,’ so I was like, ‘Let me just try to make one more lap.’

“I know it sounds like a freakin’ excuse and a cop out, but c’mon man, I’m not just going to stop on the racetrack. The motor shut off. It had been running bad for about the last 15 laps. (I was) just trying to limp home and it was like somebody just flipped a switch.”

Reutimann’s car stalling set up a green-white-checker finish as Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson chose not to pit. Clint Bowyer and crew chief Brian Pattie made the decision to pit and won the race off of pit road, but what happened on the restart ended their hopes of winning the race.


Credit: MichaelWaltripRacing.com
Clint Bowyer: No 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota

Started: 4th
Finished: 10th
Points: 9th

After running in the top five the entire race, Bowyer had the chance to go for the win on the final green-white-checker finish. After restarting in 3rd with fresh tires, poised to take the lead from Johnson and Gordon, as the cars headed into turn 1 Johnson, Gordon and Bowyer powered three wide into the turn. A tap from the No. 39 (Ryan Newman) sent Bowyer into both Johnson and Gordon and opened the door for Newman to take the checkered flag. Instead of his first win for MWR, Bowyer ended the day in 10th.

Fans took to Facebook and Twitter, blaming Bowyer for the wreck but all is well with the drivers. Bowyer spoke with good friend Gordon after the race, explaining his side of the story. Gordon said, “I was pretty mad at the time, but after understanding what happened, I wouldn't blame it on him."

While Bowyer’s three-wide move late in the race was risky, any racer going for the win would have done the exact same thing.

“They (Hendrick Motorsports) had the cars to beat. They should have won the race and we should have finished fourth there, but that’s just the nature of the beast,” Bowyer said after the race. “When the car’s got tires, other cars don’t -- he (Jeff Gordon) spun the tires pretty hard. If I didn’t go down there, the39 (Ryan Newman) had already hit me in the rear and he was going to. I did and the 39 won.”

Brian Vickers sports a new paint scheme in honor of
RK Motors. Credit: MichaelWaltripRacing.com
Brian Vickers: No. 55 RK Motors Toyota

Started: 6th
Finished: 18th
Points: 9th (owners)

Brian Vickers was back in the No. 55 this weekend at Martinsville, the track that caused an uproar last season as Vickers and Matt Kenseth got into a shoving match.

Yesterday’s race had much better results for Vickers and the No. 55 team: the car came home in one piece. Mission complete.

Starting the race, Vickers got hung in the high lane and dropped backwards, falling to p. 27 at Lap 20.  From there it was a constant battle, losing a lap at Lap 203 and running in 19th. Vickers and crew chief Rodney Childers opted to take the wave-around at Lap 363 but would later lose that lap to the leaders.

In the end, Vickers fought hard to finish in 18th place, 2 laps behind the leaders.

“We qualified well we just couldn’t get to the lower groove at the start of the race,” said Vickers after the race. “We fought track position pretty much the rest of the day. We had a solid RK Motors Toyota but we lost a lap on the first long green flag run. We took some chances to get our lap back during the race, couldn’t get the caution to fall in our favor.”

Martin Truex Jr. sits in the garage waiting to head on track.
Credit: MichaelWaltripRacing.com

Martin Truex Jr: No. 56 NAPA Know How Toyota

Started: 13th
Finished: 5th
Points: 3rd (in a four way tie with Stewart, Kenseth and Harvick)

Martin Truex Jr. again appears when it counts. He battled for the lead with teammate Clint Bowyer, but after the dust-up upfront, Truex Jr. brought home a fifth-place finish for MWR.

In the first six races Truex boasts two top-fives and four top-10s. No other driver has more top-10s to start the season, and after racing in the top 10 for a majority of the race and then finishing Martinsville in fifth, Truex should be considered a dark horse threat this season. 

“This feels great,” Truex Jr. said of his successful run. “We backed into that one a little bit with those guys getting tangled up. Our NAPA Toyota was sixth to 10th place most of the day. We were fast on the short runs and struggled on the long runs to keep the right-rear tire under the car. Worked on it all day long and Chad (Johnston, crew chief) did a good job working on it. The pit crew was good and we fought hard all day and that’s what it takes. This is probably my worst race track and to come out of here with a fifth-place finish. I’m pretty proud of that."

Rooting on his team, Kansas University, Bowyer wore his hat
proudly all weekend long. Credit: MichaelWaltripRacing.com
For Your Entertainment:

@Clint Bowyer was the SPEED driver reporter of the weekend. Sharing his tweets with SPEED all weekend long, here are some of my personal favorites. As he braced us for what is to come:

“Sooo, I'm suppose to be the pit reporter for @NASCARonSPEED this week. Here goes! #nascar

In a somewhat random Tweet,"@NASCARonSPEED Johnny Sauter has "Hot Honeys" for a sponsor this week...but for some reason the truck is missing the (900) number! #nascar"

And with the rest of the nation, watching the $640 million lottery drawing Friday evening came this funny tweet in a line of many from NASCAR drivers. “Damn it.......see you guys tomorrow!”

After qualifying, “Hot damn!!! The @5HourEnergyGuy is starting 4th tom. Great job by the guys.”

And after the race and a bit of controversy “Well that sucked, I was wanting to pass off of 2 but when they spun their tires... if I didn't go, the 39 was. Hate it for everyone! #shit

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