LOUDON — Clint Bowyer knows what can go spectacularly right and horrifically wrong for a driver and his pit crew at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Bowyer hopes to enjoy a measure of the former when he gets behind the wheel of the No. 15 Toyota for Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 Sprint Cup race.
His worst experience at NHMS came last Sept. 25, with two laps remaining in the Sylvania 300. Bowyer was the defending champion and was en route to a rare NHMS repeat, but his end-of-race strategy backfired when he ran out of gas at the head of the pack. That fuel-injected miscalculation allowed Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart to steal the race.
“Well, you go into the race with a lot more confidence than on some tracks, and obviously we probably should have won there last year,” Bowyer said Tuesday. “It's just one of those tracks where I feel I can win again. But more importantly we can get things steered back in the right direction like we had through the month of June.”
Bowyer considers himself a short track driver, and he's enjoyed a share of success navigating the unforgiving turns and stingy straightaways on the Magic Mile. In fact, Bowyer has built an impressive section of his Sprint Cup resume in the Granite State.
He has competed in a dozen Sprint Cup races at NHMS, and among the 2012 points leaders, only Jimmie Johnson and Stewart (three each) have more victories.
Bowyer has taken the checkered flag twice, with four top- He has competed in a dozen Sprint Cup races at NHMS, and among the 2012 points leaders, only Jimmie Johnson and Stewart (three each) have more victories.
Bowyer has taken the checkered flag twice, with four top-10 finishes. Against the field, Bowyer has an average running position of 12.9 (eighth), a driver rating of 95.1 (sixth), 216 fastest laps run (fourth) and an average green flag speed of 124.231 mph (sixth). He has learned that turns and tires are the ingredients for profitable finishes on the Magic Mile.
“New Hampshire is one of those tracks where the challenge is that it is hard to get around on it,” Bowyer said. “Just getting into the corners the car can get loose on you and get light and roll out from underneath you.
“On those long sweeping corners, you are on the gas on a large part of the corner once you get it rotated. The car really has to rotate good on the throttle and not get loose. That's asking a lot out your race car. I was able to get my car to stay on the throttle and rotate and turn good off of the corner.
“Nine times out of 10, if you can get that part of the track down, you are going to pass people and prevail. The tires tend to wear out, they get hot and worse and worse. If you can manage that better than the next guy, you are going to prevail.”
Bowyer's previous successes at NHMS were with Richard Childress Racing. Many NASCAR aficionados believed he navigated his career into a self-inflicted wreck when he left the security and prestige of RCR to sign with Michael Waltrip Racing, but the move has been mutually beneficial to Bowyer and Waltrip. Bowyer secured the Waltrip crew's first win of the season when he cruised to victory on the 1.99-mile road course at Sonoma, Calif., on June 25.
Bowyer's ambition to qualify for the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship took a hit when he was involved in a multi-car wreck in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona on Saturday night. But his signature win at Sonoma has him in 10th place in the points standings, and the top 10 make the Chase along with two wild cards. Bowyer is perched on the bubble with 572 points, one behind Brad Keselowski (573) and well below leader Matt Kenseth (676).
“I think we've exceeded expectations, and I'm very proud and excited to be a part of it,” Bowyer said. “This is a new chapter in my book, and to make it a good one here so far this season has been gratifying and a lot of fun.
“Now I feel like we can make the Chase and be a top-five team within the Chase.”