Clint Bowyer was wearing the logo of a breakfast cereal on his uniform following the July 4th weekend Sprint Cup race at Daytona, but he must have felt more like toast.
Getting caught up in one of those “big one” restrictor-plate-bred wrecks had not only destroyed his chances of a good finish — perhaps a victory — in the Coke Zero 400, but also blew a nasty old hole in his hopes of making his third consecutive Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
The thing about holes, however, is that many can be patched or filled.
Armed with new cars, new crew members and a warehouse full of want-to, Bowyer and the #33 Richard Childress Racing team will be attacking their hole in Sunday's Carfax 400 at Michigan International Speedway with the kind of gusto that comes with confidence.
“I've always run well at Michigan,” said Bowyer, 15th in the Cup standings, 99 points out of twelfth, the final Chase-eligible spot. “I've just had terrible luck there. The engine blew up while I was running second with two laps to go one year, so to finally get a top-ten finish in the spring was good for us.”
Bowyer's luck and fortunes have yo-yo'd after his tenth-place finish at Michigan in mid-June. The following week, he posted a second-straight top ten, finishing eighth at Infineon Raceway.
But then came a 20th at New Hampshire and the “big one” at Daytona that resulted in a 29th-place finish and his Chase hopes were taking on big water. He dropped to 16th in the standings, 135 points behind twelfth-place Kasey Kahne with eight races to go before the start of the Chase.
He simply could not afford any more disasters if he was going keep his Chase streak alive. He finished ninth at Chicagoland, slipped a bit the next race when he was 18th at the Brickyard but recovered to finish third at Pocono the following week.
Last week, he headed to Watkins Glen with nerves twitching as he has never been viewed as a terrific road racer in spite of the top-ten at Infineon.
“Road courses were not part of my past,” Bowyer said. “I've had to learn a lot. Especially at Watkins Glen. I've struggled with the speed there.”