Originally posted on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 10/6/12

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 07: Clint Bowyer drives the #33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 7, 2009 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Is Talladega the “wild card” race in the Chase?

Not for Clint Bowyer, who stands to make up ground in the championship picture this weekend.

Bowyer’s average finish over the last five Talladega races is a sparkling 3.4. The driver of the No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota is five-for-five in top-10′s during that span with two victories, whereas no other driver has more than three top-10′s during that time. Bowyer has led more laps than any driver other than Matt Kenseth. His worst finish is seventh while his driver rating is far and away the highest among all drivers.

Bowyer is currently fourth in the standings, 25 points behind the lead. The drivers Bowyer has to worry about as he looks to move up in the points are named Johnson, Hamlin and Keselowski. Can Bowyer go into Sunday’s race with a reasonable hope of making up ground on these three men?

If recent history holds true, the answer is an emphatic “YES.” Bowyer is the two-time defending race winner of the fall Talladega race and you can be sure he will do everything in his power to make it a three-peat come race day.

Bowyer also has history on his side in his quest to make a drive up the standings. Unlike, say, up-and-comer Brad Keselowski, the veteran Bowyer knows his way around the top of the points as the season winds down, with two prior top-5 championship finishes. And he obviously knows how to win when the weather gets cooler and the action on the track heats up, as the two-time defending winner of this very event. Four of his seven career victories have come in the Chase, so Burton is at his best at this time of year.

Finally, Bowyer has all kinds of both short-term and season-long momentum in his favor at the moment.

He’s on a four-race top-10 streak, which began with his victory at Richmond in the final race before the Chase. Bowyer has two wins already this season, matching his career high, and along with teammate Martin Truex Jr. put a Michael Waltrip Racing car into the Chase for the first time. Without a doubt, he’s putting together the finest individual season in MWR history, having already doubled the team’s all-time victory total (former MWR driver David Reutimann scored wins at Charlotte and Chicagoland for the only other race trophies in the organization’s trophy case).

All this means that Bowyer will be a force to be reckoned with at Talladega this weekend. He’s my pick to win the race, over drivers such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski. Don’t be surprised if Clint Bowyer’s name makes a move toward the top of the standings in the aftermath of what will surely be a wild and crazy weekend at ‘Dega.

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