CORNELIUS, N.C. – No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota driver Clint Bowyer clinched a berth in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Bowyer and No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. became the first drivers in Michael Waltrip Racing history to qualify for NASCAR’s 10-race playoff. This weekend the 5-hour ENERGY team races at Richmond International Raceway.
MAKING THE CHASE: “Making the Chase is huge. Not just for the drivers, but also for the crews, sponsors, team owner … everybody. We couldn’t have asked for a better season after everything that happened in the offseason. There were so many unknowns coming into this season with this team, but to be able to land on our feet with a great organization like MWR, a great sponsor like 5-hour ENERGY and great teammates in Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr. – I really couldn’t have asked for a better situation. (Crew chief) Brian Pattie and everyone on our 5-hour ENERGY Toyota is just hitting on all eight cylinders at the right time and I’m looking forward to this Chase.
“This is the first time I’ve been in a situation where we are locked in before we get to Richmond and we can race like we have absolutely nothing to lose – and everything to gain in terms of bonus points when the system resets after the race.”
ON RICHMOND: “I think it’s more important for us to go to Richmond and try to win to get those extra bonus points. We’ve really been focusing on finishing in the single digits over the last couple weeks to secure our spot in this deal. Wins are very important, but you can’t gamble for a win if you aren’t locked in. We’re locked in now and if we have even an outside shot at a win in Richmond I’m going to do everything in my power to get those bonus points. As we saw last year – every single point counts!”
2012 EXPECTATIONS: “We are definitely ahead of schedule from where I thought we would be at this point. Our goals this year were to win a race, run up front and lead laps, make the Chase and compete for the Championship. We’ve won a race, we’ve run up front and led laps, now we’ve made the Chase and it’s time to go run for a Championship.
CHASE CHANCES: “I like where we’re at. I like where our cars are at. I think we have as good of speed as about anybody in the Chase. I say it every year that there are always more and more cars and teams that are capable of winning a championship. I think it’s any man’s race once you’re in. It’s anyone’s championship to win or lose as long as you make it in.”
CHASE TRACKS: “Most of the Chase races are good for me. If you ever look at my stats in the last five or six years some of my best races are in the last 10 races of the year, so for whatever reason – I think it’s because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I get excited!” (laughs).
CLINCHED! GOING CHASING: Martin Truex Jr. in the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota and Clint Bowyer in the No. 15 5-hour ENERGY secured a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series field. It marks Michael Waltrip Racing’s first appearance in the Chase field in the company’s six year history in the Sprint Cup Series. This weekend in Richmond marks the first time that Bowyer has gone to Richmond locked in to the Chase field.
CATCHING SPEED … AGAIN: ESPN TV will air an encore presentation of Catching Speed presented by John Deere and 5-hour ENERGY on Sunday, Sept. 9 at 2:30 p.m. The one-hour special presentation follows Clint Bowyer and the 5-hour ENERGY team for the week leading into The Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
POINT STANDING: Bowyer is eighth in the point standing with one win. Bowyer locked in his Chase for the Sprint Cup berth at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He leads 11th-place Kasey Kahne by 60 points with one race remaining before the point system is reset. Bowyer’s win on the road course at Sonoma will account for three bonus points once the system is reset. Prior to 2012, the best season any driver in the history of Michael Waltrip Racing has finished in a season is 16th in the final point standings (David Reutimann, 2009).
CHASSIS NOTES: Primary chassis No. 718 started fifth, finished third and led a lap at New Hampshire. Prior to New Hampshire, No. 718 served backup duty at Phoenix, Bristol-1, Richmond and Dover. Backup chassis No. 712 raced earlier this season in Phoenix and Richmond.
BOWYER AT RICHMOND: Bowyer will make his 14th career NSCS start at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night. In 13 previous starts, he has one win, one top-five, seven top-10 and 11 top-12 finishes. His lone win came in the spring 2008 race. Bowyer has an average finish of 10.2, average running position of 10.7 (fourth-best), 411 quality passes (fourth-most), driver rating of 96.4 (fifth-best), 3,968 laps in the top-15 (76.2 percent, sixth-most) and average green flag speed of 116.431 mph (seventh fastest). On average he starts 15th and finishes 17th and has led 75 total laps.