Bowyer needs strong showing at Talladega

dscott@charlotteobserver.comOctober 6, 2012 

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TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 05: Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-Hour Energy Benefiting Avon Foundation for Women Toyota, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 5, 2012 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

TOM PENNINGTON — Getty Images

— Clint Bowyer knows his way around Talladega Superspeedway as well as any driver on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup circuit.

His victories in the past two fall races at the sport’s biggest track are proof of that. And if Bowyer wants remain a contender in this season’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, he’s going to have to be competitive again in Sunday’s Good Sam 500 at Talladega.

“This is one of the tracks that can separate somebody and possibly win you a championship,” Bowyer said Friday. “This can be a game changer.”

The Toyota-driving Bowyer – fourth in the Chase standings, 25 behind leader Brad Keselowski – is referring to the wild-card nature of Talladega. It is the one track in the 10-race Chase where anything and everything might happen. The specter of the so-called “big wreck” on the 2.66 tri-oval is constant.

“It’s so much fun,” said Bowyer of racing at Talladega. “That’s such a thrill to go around and know the storm is brewing and all hell is fixing to break loose and you’re fixing to be a part of it.

“That’s a pretty neat situation to be in.”

Bowyer has two victories this season, at Sonoma and Richmond. He was never in danger of missing the Chase, staying in the top 12 since the season’s fourth race. His three finishes in the Chase (10th at Chicago, fourth at New Hampshire and ninth last week at Dover) have him trailing only Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.

But Bowyer cautions that Talladega’s unpredictability can throw the whole Chase up in the air.

“This track is the reason why everybody in the Chase is still in it,” said Bowyer, who didn’t qualify for the Chase last season and whose best championship finish was third in 2007. “This is the only track that all of us can get wiped out – or maybe all of us but one or two. Maybe the 12th guy (in the Chase) is the only one not taken out and he comes out of here with a whole new outlook.

“It’s a breath of fresh air for the rest of the races. You’ve just got to go out there and be as careful as you can and also be as aggressive as you can.”

Bowyer subscribes to the theory that it’s probably better to run at either the rear or the front at Talladega for most of the race. That’s because the inevitable crash that will likely take out a good chunk of the field usually comes in the middle of the pack.

“That’s absolutely where I don’t want to be,” Bowyer said of running in the middle. “If I’m in the middle of this thing before halfway, I’m going to the back. I’ll pull over on the apron or do something.

“If you’re up front starting the race, you want to stay up front and stay there. You’ve got to do whatever you’ve got to do to survive this thing.”

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14

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