By Toby Christie (Originally Appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
Going into Sunday Clint Bowyer was just the guy sitting 12th in the point standings, nothing more than a wild card. At the end of the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire, Bowyer emerged as a true contender in the Chase For The Championship.
Bowyer led 177 laps en route to his first victory in the last 88 races, but he had to conserve enough fuel to get there. When the dust settled Bowyer not only had enough in the tank to get to the finish line, but he had just enough for the celebratory burnout.
Denny Hamlin, who used a late spin to come to pit road for gas finished second followed by Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kevin Harvick.
In winning Bowyer moved from 12th in the standings all the way up to second. He has to feel good about that right?
“Absolutely. To come in here the underdog just like we did in 2007, to win the first race of the Chase and set that tempo, not only for the Chase but for our race team, our organization, all three of our cars were up front, and that’s what it takes,” Bowyer said. “You’ve got to be able to work together as we did this weekend.”
“We all three showed up a little bit different, and we found a common ground. We all honed in on that, fine tuned it from there, worked together. And if we do that for the rest of these races, you know, somebody at RCR is going to bring a championship trophy back home to this man.”
Denny Hamlin maintains his point lead with a second place finish, but a lot of frantic action on the track made for nervous moments. Hamlin came into the Chase not wanting to make a mistake like in years past, but there he found himself in bad situations all day long.
“I was very surprised, really, to see how aggressive guys were on restarts. It is such a balance, because you’ve got guys like Jamie that are like, win, win, win, win, and we’re like, you know, I just don’t want to get hit on restarts. I’m just trying to not get run over and whatnot,” Hamlin said.
“So it’s a balance out there. And this is one of the toughest tracks to have restarts. So I was really worried about this track in particular, getting out of here unscathed, and we didn’t, but we just battled back right there. So overall it was pretty surprising to me to see really how aggressive it was.”
Tony Stewart looked poised for victory Sunday, as he was the leader with just two laps to go. The only problem was that Stewart’s tank would come up empty, and he would be left with a 24th place showing after leading 100 laps on the day. As a result, Stewart finds himself 11th in the Race for The Championship, instead of second.
Carl Edwards came home 11th, but he was the one who actually spun Denny Hamlin out during the race. This gave Hamlin a chance to hit pit road, and make it to the finish on fuel. Edwards talks about his run, and the incident with Hamlin.
“The car ran well. Everyone was about the same speed,” Edwards said. “I just got loose under Denny (Hamlin). The first time I chattered the rear tires all day and I took him out. He probably had the car to beat. I am proud of my team and the Aflac Ford Fusion was really good, it was just unfortunate that we had that situation out there.”
Matt Kenseth came into the race 11th in the standings, but a crash relegated him to a 23rd place finish. Now he sits dead last in the Chase field in 12th. Kenseth broke down his bad day.
“Our Crown Royal Ford was just tight in the middle and needed help turning in the front today. The guys made adjustments all race long but we just didn’t run very well. We got caught up in that wreck, had a lot of damage to the car, and it was just a really long day for us,” Kenseth said.
Chase Contender Sylvania 300 Finishes:
Clint Bowyer (1st)
Denny Hamlin (2nd)
Kevin Harvick (5th)
Jeff Gordon (6th)
Kyle Busch (9th)
Carl Edwards (11th)
Kurt Busch (13th)
Jeff Burton (15th)
Greg Biffle (17th)
Matt Kenseth (23rd)
Tony Stewart (24th)
Jimmie Johnson (25th)