NASCAR

The Glen will test 'road' warrior Bowyer

Clint Bowyer
Clint Bowyer says Watkins Glen's road course poses a particular challenge.
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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for FOXSports.com. She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y.

When contemplating the odds of Sprint Cup drivers at Watkins Glen, certainly names like Marcos Ambrose, Kyle Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya come to mind.

Heck, if Tony Stewart wasn’t laid up in a hospital bed recuperating from a broken leg, his five victories would have him in the mix as well. And with four wins, Jeff Gordon is a venerable opponent too.

But Clint Bowyer?

“Clint’s one of those guys that is just a solid race-car driver everywhere you go, and I think his diversity with his dirt-track experience and different types of cars shows his talents, and he’s a very talented race car driver,” Gordon said. “It also shows by (Michael Waltrip Racing teammate) Martin’s (Truex Jr.) victory out in Sonoma and Clint’s strong finish here last year that their road-course program is improving as well.

“You take talented drivers, good race cars and an effort towards road-course racing and you’re going to see results. I look for them to be strong again this weekend.”

As road courses go, Bowyer is “not quite as confident” here as he is at Sonoma, where he’s won and posted five top-five finishes in eight starts with an average finish of 9.1. But in his first season at MWR, Bowyer won at Sonoma and posted his first top-five finish at the Glen.

MWR’s road-course program had made vast improvements before Bowyer arrived last year. In 2009, MWR’s technical alliance with Ambrose and JTG Racing “elevated” it significantly, according to Truex.

“They spent a lot of time testing different things, and road racers kind of have a different mentality when it comes to tuning on the car and the little things that you need to work on — transmission things and brakes and stuff,” Truex said.

IT ADDS UP

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“He definitely really led us in the right direction without a doubt, and as soon as I came there — Sonoma had never been a really good track for me — as soon as I went to MWR, right off the bat I think the first year we were really fast.''

Although Bowyer posted a career-high fourth-place finish at Watkins Glen last year, he still feels there is room for improvement, and, he said sarcastically, to “go through the corners faster and brake quicker.”

“It’s certainly a place where I as a driver need to get better, but having a good car and a good team behind you certainly helps to overcome at one of my worst race tracks,” Bowyer said. “I’m optimistic going in there.''

Bowyer is currently second in the point standings. He trails point leader Jimmie Johnson by 77. But with six races remaining before the Chase, every point counts.

“We’ve been good all year long and before (Pocono, Indianapolis and Loudon) we had three top-five’s in a row,” Bowyer said. “We’ve been a strong team and a strong organization since the beginning of last year. Certainly, really proud of where we’re at, but obviously we need to get a little bit better. We’ll slowly perfect our program as we get closer to the Chase and hit this baby in full stride so we can compete for the championship.”

OOPS, I DID IT AGAIN ...

For the second time in three weeks, Travis Kvapil’s car became a magnet for Danica Patrick.

On Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Patrick’s car became loose in Turn 2, and she collected Kvapil and veteran Jeff Burton in the process. A similar issue happened two weeks earlier in Turn 1 at Loudon.

With the incidents compounding, Patrick felt “it was time” to discuss the situation with Kvapil, a former NASCAR Truck Series champion.

“It was a good conversation, and hopefully we don’t have any more issues in the future,” Patrick said. “It’s not good to crash cars, so I don’t want to be in that position. I don’t want to be in the position to take anyone with me.”

But last Sunday, both drivers were running in the top 20 with the potential of a solid finish until Patrick took it two wide on an area of Pocono where some of the most experienced racers have difficulty holding on to their cars.

“I don’t want to make more mistakes, and I know that at least coming off of Loudon for sure into our break that I just said to myself I was just going to run my own races and I wasn’t going to let anything get to me,” Patrick said on Friday.

“It just is what it is, and I have better days when I don’t think about, when I don’t get bothered by anything.

“Honestly, that was how I went into Pocono, and I didn’t let anything bother me if someone was catching me. If they passed me, fine. If I couldn’t get by someone, that was just what was happening. I really felt very calm in that race.”

While Kvapil was considerably calmer when he discussed Patrick’s repeat offenses, he was surprised there was no remorse on the other side of the phone.

“She called to talk a little bit, but the fact is, we race around each other a lot [and] we’ve had a few wrecks,” Kvapil said. “She wanted to clear the air, but her position was that I race her real hard. My position is, when you’re where we are every week racing for 20th to 25th, you have to race differently. You’re racing to stay on the lead lap and you’re racing for your points position.

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“She said I put myself in vulnerable positions, but she’s the one that lost her car both times, and I don’t know how that’s my fault. Yes, I race hard, but I get paid to race hard.”

While Kvapil realizes there’s no sense in fighting a losing battle, it’s probably best for the two racers to just agree to disagree.

SOCIALIZING

With the rain delay at Watkins Glen, drivers had plenty of time to tweet and ponder life’s issues.

Bowyer tweeted:

"I once thought it was just going to keep getting hotter and hotter and burn us outta existence. Now I'm pretty sure we're going to drown."

Followed by….

"Anyone have directions on how to build an Ark?"

NUMBERS GAME

5 — times that Sprint Cup drivers have swept both road courses in one season — Jeff Gordon (twice), Robby Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch.

WHAT WAS THAT?

What are some of the wildest moments of the season? CHECK THEM OUT

6 — tracks where five-time champion Jimmie Johnson has yet to win a Sprint Cup race, including the Glen.

127.238 mph — fast lap in first practice set by Martin Truex Jr., who won at Sonoma, NASCAR’s other Sprint Cup road course, in June.

SAY WHAT?

When Tony Stewart’s replacement driver, Max Papis, was asked the extent of the injured racer’s injuries, he replied:

“The thing he told me is he's going to be able to have kids in the future, so that's no problem,” Papis said.

Tagged: Jeff Gordon, Danica Patrick, Jeff Burton, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Travis Kvapil, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Robby Gordon

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