By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Clint Bowyer was just a few restarts away from spoiling the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Despite not being in the Playoffs, Bowyer ran well enough to battle for the lead and finish inside the top-10 in the ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Bowyer jumped up to second in the No. 14 Haas Automation Ford Fusion on a restart with just under 30 laps to go. Before he could make a move on race leader, and eventual winner, Kyle Busch, the caution waved. On the ensuing restart, Bowyer tried to anticipate Busch, but miss-timed the jump on the 2015 Premier Series Champion. Busch, laid back before gunning it, leaving Bowyer in the dust. When the checkered flag waved about 20 laps later, Bowyer crossed the line in seventh.
Bowyer was battling with the Playoff contenders for the entire race. In Stage 1, he was just barely inside the top-20. When Stage 2 ended, Bowyer narrowly avoided a pile-up that swept up his Stewart Haas Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. However, from that point on, he was well inside the top-10, the best of Stewart Haas Racing’s cars.
Bowyer admitted that his team was just off compared to his competitors,
“It really wasn’t a strategy race. We just kept digging and were just off a little bit. The same cars are kicking everybody’s butt every week.”
Racing around the Playoff contenders also presented the chance for trouble. At one point, in a battle with Jamie McMurray, Bowyer got a little too close for comfort. The contact nearly sent McMurray sliding into the wall.
After the race, Bowyer made sure that there were no hard feelings between himself and McMurray,
“I got into him back there. I was under him and kept poking under him and it’s just a product of the VHT and having to come back across. I clipped him and didn’t mean to.”
Bowyer’s seventh-place finish was his 11th top-10 of the season. In the battle to be ‘best of the rest,’ he is one point behind Joey Logano, who sits 17th in the points standings.
Now Bowyer will look towards Dover International Speedway where he will once again have the chance to play the role of spoiler.