Friday, September 11, 2015

What does the future hold for the "Richmond Six?"

Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 15 Cup car, sits 16th in the points standings.
Credit: Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs    
With rain in the forecast for Saturday night’s all-important season finale in Richmond, there are six Sprint Cup drivers who are hoping for not only a clear race day, but also for a flawless finish: Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Kasey Kahne.  
Fortunately, despite being winless so far this season Jamie McMurray, who is 10th in the standings, only needs to start the Federated Auto Parts 400 to clinch his inaugural entry in the Chase.  
Newman, Gordon and Menard are in control of their destinies with good finishes. For Newman that means a 31st or better. For Gordon, 17th will do it, and Menard is shooting for ninth.

The road to the Chase isn’t so easy for Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Kasey Kahne. These drivers desperately need a little help from their fellow competitors in the form of a poor finish. And, of course, if there is a new winner, be prepared to re-calculate all the statistics.

Although getting into the Chase is important to all the bubble drivers, perhaps it holds more significance for Bowyer who is in limbo for the 2016 season. Michael Waltrip Racing folds at the end of this year, leaving Bowyer, teammate David Ragan and more than 200 Michael Waltrip Racing employees without a job in 2016.

In his usual easy-going way, Bowyer talked about racing the driver in front of him to possibly clinch a Chase spot.

“To be dead serious with you, when I got up this morning I double-checked where we were on the points. The racer in you naturally looks at how close you are to the guy in front of you. He’s only 10 points ahead of me, and it’s one of my best tracks. I saw that where Menard was and thought that was doable. Nobody ever looks over their shoulder worrying about what’s behind them. You want to worry about what’s ahead, and for me this weekend it’s an attainable task to beat him out,” he said.

Ironically, off-the-track worrying about the future is a natural tendency as MWR team members look for jobs in a small pool of opportunities. However, Bowyer says the team has no issues focusing at the track and is optimistic about their chances for clinching a place in the playoffs.

Bowyer said it was his idea to tell the MWR team sooner rather than later, to be fair and keep them engaged.

“I felt like we owed it to them to tell them as the earliest possible, so they could go out and work on their future. Everybody thinks differently, but for me I felt like that’s how you get the most out of your people. I know for a fact that as soon as they get off from work, before work, text messaging or whatever, they’re working on their futures and that’s exactly what I intended and hoped that they would do. All the while they are still digging as hard as they can and getting our cars where they need to be to compete for a championship."