DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Six races ago, Clint Bowyer was coming off of a fifth place finish at his home track in Kansas. It was his sixth top 10 finish in a seven race span in his No. 14 Ford. At the time, Bowyer sat +73 in the playoff standings. While he hadn’t won a race during the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, he knew that a trip to victory lane was likely coming soon.
Why worry right?
Well, over the last five races, Bowyer has lost 58 points as he went from +73 to +15 and squarely on the playoff bubble in 16th. That’s why the Stewart-Haas Racing driver is somewhat concerned about Sunday’s rain delayed Coke Zero Sugar 400 (1 p.m. ET/NBC/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
See, this race could see a driver 17th or worse in the playoff standings reach victory lane. The last two 400 winners here?
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2017) and Erik Jones (2018). Both are on the outside looking in right now. Throw in Austin Dillon’s 2017 Daytona 500 triumph and three of the last four Daytona winners on the Cup side are not in the playoffs as we sit today. If someone like that wins on Sunday?
Bowyer would likely get bumped out. That has him questioning himself over a move or rather a non move that he turned down at a spring race in Richmond back in April.
“You look at the way we were running in April and May we were knocking on the door,” said Bowyer on Saturday in Daytona. “I look back at Richmond. Man, if I had known then what I know now, I would have moved (Martin) Truex out of the way and won that race by a straightaway like I probably should have done.
“But, in the moment right there, the way we were running, I wasn’t worried about it. If we didn’t win that night, we were going to win the next night.”
Bowyer, was right there contending for the win that night but his tires fell off and instead of going for the win, he faded to a third place result. Again, at the time, a win was coming.
“We were running really, really well, and that win was coming,” continued Bowyer. “But that’s racing man. You can go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows pretty damn fast, and we did that, we proved that from May to June we went from seventh or eighth in points to 16th or something.
“But we’re not a 16th place team, and I know that.”
Bowyer, said that as long as he knows that, this downward spiral can be changed.
“If you can lose it in a month, you sure as hell can gain it in a month, and I would be a lot more concerned if our organization wasn’t capable of turning that around and, more importantly, my team with Mike (Bugarewicz, crew chief) and the 14 car.”
Bowyer, notes that he’s had some “crazy stuff” happen to him in this five race string that can quickly turn around the other way, but they do have to do a better job and clean up their acts. If they can do so, they’ll be just fine.
“There’s not a concern about being able to get back to where we need to be.”
Bowyer’s last five finishes are – 24th, 5th, 35th, 11th and 37th respectively. Part of a larger problem than his finishes are his lack of stage points. He hasn’t scored any since May 11 (Kansas). He had 52 stage points in the 12 races prior. Without scoring any stage points, combine that with bad finishes and you get low points scored for an overall race.
When asked if he’s going to change his approach if he doesn’t win soon, Bowyer reiterates that they’re not a 16th place team and doesn’t think they need to.
“No, no not at all. We’re not a 16th place team. We’re not a bubble team. I don’t believe that at all. I believe where were marching forward, and then we hit June and started to jump into massive holes.”