Seconds after Clint Bowyer climbed from his No. 14 Ford Mustang June 2 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, he had a few words to summarize his fifth-place finish in the 400-mile Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
“That was all about track position,” said Bowyer, who has the same view more than a month later as the Cup Series returns to Pocono for Sunday’s 400-mile race.
“We weren’t happy with the finish in June because we were better than fifth – we had a really good Mustang that day,” Bowyer said. “It was really hard to pass, so it kind of came down to track position throughout. We lost a lot of stage points because of track position. I think you will see track position be just as important at Pocono again this weekend.”
Bonus points and track position will likely be key words repeated a lot this weekend at Pocono as the urgency builds in the Cup Series garage with the end of the 26-race regular season fast approaching.
With just five races remaining, Bowyer and a host of other drivers are on the cusp of securing or losing a berth in the 16-driver playoffs.
Bowyer arrives at Pocono 16th in the standings, but just 17 points ahead of 17th-place Jimmie Johnson and 72 points behind 10th-place Alex Bowman. He knows there is time to fall outside of playoff-clinching position, but also time to gain positions.
It all continues Sunday at Pocono, a track that has been kind to Bowyer over his career. He owns two top-five finishes and 10 top-10s in 26 career starts at the Pennsylvania 2.5-mile triangle. His Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team has also done well there. SHR has two victories at Pocono – Tony Stewart in June 2009 and Kurt Busch in June 2016 – and has 22 top-fives and 32 top-10s in 62 starts.
“We need to put together a good run in each of the next five races,” said Bowyer, who arrives at Pocono after a 20th-place finish last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. He started 16th and finished fourth in Stage 1 and appeared destined for a top-10 finish but contact with another car late in Stage 2 damaged his car ruining his chances for a good finish.
“We have been fast this year but something has seemed to happen and we shoot ourselves in the foot or get some type of bad luck,” Bowyer said.
“We aren’t giving up and we know we can run up front. With no mistakes, we are a top team. This is getting to the money time in our season. That’s when the pay window’s open, the money’s on the line, it’s go time. Let’s see what we’re made of. Let’s line these things up and get after it.”
At Pocono this weekend, Bowyer will carry the colors of Toco Warranty, whose Toco All-Star Sweepstakes offers fans a chance to get to Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. One lucky winner and guest will attend the season finales of the World of Outlaws World Nov. 8 to 9 at The Dirt Track near Charlotte, North Carolina, as guests of Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) before jetting off to South Florida to see the NASCAR season finale Nov. 16 and 17 with Bowyer and SHR.
To register, fans simply need to go to www.TocoWarranty.com. A winner will be drawn by 5 p.m. EDT on Sept. 16.
Toco Warranty partnered with SHR and TSR earlier this year. The provider of pay-as-you-go vehicle repair coverage is a primary partner of Bowyer and the No. 14 team of SHR and the co-primary partner of Donny Schatz and TSR’s No. 15 Winged Sprint car. Toco Warranty is also an associate sponsor of Tony Stewart, who is competing in more than 90 Winged Sprint car races this year.
Consumers demand affordable monthly payments and Toco Warranty offers an easy online experience via its website, www.TocoWarranty.com. It is where customers can purchase and review their vehicle service contract, manage online payments and access dedicated customer concierge services.
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Toco Warranty/Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are your thoughts on Pocono Raceway?
“Pocono is a really tough track with three different turns. I want to make sure we qualify well so we can get a good starting position and pit stall. As we saw in June, passing is pretty tough there, so track position is everything. We had a good car there last time and I expect we will again. Where we are in points (16th), we need to score as many bonus points as we can.”
What would it mean to win at Pocono with Mike Bugarewicz as your crew chief?
“I know that’s a dream of Buga’s to win at Pocono with his friends and family in the stands so, yes, it would be cool to win for him. But winning anywhere right now would be a celebration. I don’t care if it’s at Pocono, Watkins Glen or Michigan. So, to answer your question, yes, a win for Buga on Sunday at Pocono would make him, me, the 14 crew, everyone at SHR, Toco Warranty, Ford and everyone in the grandstands happy. Let’s do it.”
MIKE BUGAREWICZ, Crew Chief of the No. 14 Toco Warranty/Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What does Pocono mean to you?
“There’s a simple, one-word description I have of Pocono, and it’s ‘home.’ I grew up about 20 minutes from the racetrack. I’ve raced up in the Northeast and attended many of the races at Pocono. I used to go to qualifying all the time there. Pocono means a lot to me. It would really mean a lot to me to have a win there at some point in my career. I haven’t been successful with that, yet, but I hope to change that shortly.”