Bowyer still hanging around as dark horse in Chase
Clint Bowyer has been flying under the radar ever since his Chase-opening win at New Hampshire. If Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson stumble down the stretch, keep an eye on the 07, writes John Schwarb.
Updated: November 2, 2007, 10:33 AM ETBy John Schwarb | Special to ESPN.com
START YOUR ENGINES
Depending on how you like your NASCAR championship battles, this year's Chase for the Nextel Cup is shaping up to be either a classic or somewhat of a letdown.
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GOING THE WRONG WAY
SHOWING SOME LOVE FOR
In other words, It's all on Clint Bowyer.The second-year Richard Childress Racing driver was seeded at the bottom of the 12-man Chase field by virtue of a winless regular season, but won the first race at New Hampshire and was second two weeks later at Kansas to put himself firmly in the championship discussion, in third place. Since his home-state race, he has finished no worse than 11th and has added another second (Charlotte), but behind the torrid Hendrick pace he has slipped to 111 points back of leader Gordon and 102 behind Johnson. Still in third, but with work to do."What we have to do is keep digging," Bowyer said after a sixth-place day at Atlanta. "We can't give up, we didn't give up [Sunday] and we won't give up."Nor should he as the Chase turns to Texas Motor Speedway, one of the rare tracks where Gordon and Johnson do not have their names all over the winners' log. Neither has won on the high-banked 1.5-mile oval.Johnson's Texas history is nothing poor, with six top-10s in eight starts, but he did crash out in 38th place in the spring race. Gordon was fourth in the spring and ninth in last year's Dickies 500, but his 15.8 average finish ranks Texas among his least-successful tracks."I've always loved the facility, but it's been hit-or-miss for us," Gordon said. "We've been close to victory the past couple of times, but for whatever crazy reason -- whether it's an electrical problem while leading or me smacking the wall off Turn 4 while leading -- we just haven't won."Bowyer actually has won at Texas -- in the Craftsman Truck Series last year. Hey, at least it's something to build on while trying to make this Chase a three-man fight.
ROCKET MANJimmie Johnson: Atlanta wasn't Martinsville, where Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon teamed to lead 315 of 506 laps and finish 1-3. On the bullring, both Chevys were strong and could have won. On the intermediate Atlanta oval, Gordon didn't have a winning car and Johnson didn't really either, but when Denny Hamlin came up lame on a restart with nine laps remaining, opportunity arrived for the No. 48. "We struggled [Sunday], and it seems when we were struggling, the 24 was running well and then it kind of flipped at the end," Johnson said after closing the points gap to nine behind Gordon. "We didn't have the best of days. As the race went on, we got much stronger. [Crew chief Chad Knaus] was making a lot of great adjustments on the car. I think the first three or four adjustments we were trying to find direction with the car and what would wake it up, and then Chad got on to what was working for the car and bringing the comfort for me to drive it and we improved the car a lot throughout the event."Those closing laps were the only ones Johnson led in his second consecutive victory and eighth of the season.John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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