|SOURCE: Jonathan McCoy, RubbingsRacing.com|
The finish was Bowyer’s second of the season and his first since the spring race at Richmond, 22 races ago.
From that Richmond race to the Chase cutoff at the track last month, Bowyer showed signs of improvement, scoring four Top Fives and nine Top Tens in 17 races. In his Richmond return, he matched his season-best 3rd at Talladega in April and climbed to 17th in points - but, hamstrung by a 38th-place finish at Atlanta the week before, he missed a spot in the Chase by just seven points. Bowyer came to Charlotte with just one top-ten finish in the postseason: a 9th at Dover.
For Charlotte, Bowyer would run his second-straight race with sponsorship from 5-Hour Energy’s Pink Lemonade flavored product, one of many pink schemes in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Bowyer’s car showed speed early, running 15th in Thursday’s opening practice and 9th in the second session on Friday. He qualified 25th at an average speed of 195.291 mph, then inched back to 21st in Happy Hour.
The only driver missing the show was Trevor Bayne, his first DNQ in Cup competition after 55 successful attempts - nearly all of them as a “go-or-go-homer.” It was Bayne’s first Cup attempt that was not in the Wood Brothers’ #21, but rather the #6 Advocare Ford he will run full-time next season.
At the start of Saturday’s race, which ESPN pre-empted with both college football and pre-season basketball, the online leaderboard indicated 2014 LASTCAR Nationwide Series leader Blake Koch held the 43rd spot on the opening lap in the #32 Leaf Filter Ford. It was Koch’s first Cup start since driving Frankie Stoddard’s #32 at Dover in June. On Lap 2, Koch surrendered the spot to Brett Moffitt, who was making his first start in the #66 Identity Ventures Racing team since Atlanta. Moffitt was the first driver to lose a lap on Lap 7, and he soon lost a handful more, perhaps due to contact with the outside wall as indicated by damage shown to his passenger side door on Lap 189. On Lap 17, Moffitt was still last, five laps down to the leaders.
With 2014 LASTCAR Cup leaders Dave Blaney and Mike Bliss not in Saturday’s field, Timmy Hill emerged as a threat to join the late-season battle for most last-place finishes. Driving the #33 Retroinfinity.com Chevrolet for the second-straight race, Hill slipped to 42nd during a round of green-flag stops on Lap 78. He was then passed by Josh Wise, whose #98 Provident Metals Chevrolet went behind the wall with mechanical troubles moments later. By Lap 84, Wise had slipped past Moffitt for last, off the track and apparently headed for Phil Parsons Racing’s first last-place run of 2014.
Then, on Lap 94, smoke billowed from underneath Bowyer’s #15, bringing out the second caution of the night. He pulled behind the wall, his night done. Wise returned to the track on Lap 116, then dropped Bowyer to last on Lap 133, just as the engine on Paul Menard’s #27 Schrock / Menards Chevrolet let go. On the broadcast, a plain-clothed Bowyer was seen giving a thumbs-up to Menard as he pulled the yellow car behind the wall. Wise ended up 41st, his rear gear giving out on the backstretch on Lap 222. Moffitt and Koch rounded out the Bottom Five, both finishing under power.
*The #15 had never before finished last in a Cup Series race at Charlotte.
*This is the first last-place finish for Michael Waltrip Racing in a Cup race at Charlotte since October 11, 2008, when A.J. Allmendinger crashed in the #00 Champon Mortgage Toyota after 52 laps.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #15-Clint Bowyer / 94 laps / engine
42) #27-Paul Menard / 134 laps / engine
41) #98-Josh Wise / 178 laps / rear gear
40) #66-Brett Moffitt / 320 laps / running
39) #32-Blake Koch / 322 laps / running
LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (4)
2nd) Dave Blaney (3)
3rd) Clint Bowyer, Timmy Hill (2)
4th) A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Landon Cassill, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Gilliland, Denny Hamlin, Travis Kvapil, Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Clay Rogers, Johnny Sauter, Morgan Shepherd, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Truex, Brian Vickers, Cole Whitt, J.J. Yeley (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #37-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #93-BK Racing (4)
2nd) #15-Michael Waltrip Racing, #77-Randy Humphrey Racing (2)
3rd) #11-Joe Gibbs Racing, #14-Stewart-Haas Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #26-BK Racing, #32-Go FAS Racing, #33-Circle Sport, #38-Front Row Motorsports, #40-Hillman Racing, #42-Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, #43-Richard Petty Motorsports, #44-Team XTREME Racing, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #55-Michael Waltrip Racing, #66-Michael Waltrip Racing / Identity Ventures Racing, #78-Furniture Row Racing, #83-BK Racing, #87-Identity Ventures Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet, Toyota (12)
2nd) Ford (7)