Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

In the Stretch Run; Bowyer Conserves Fuel, Hangs on to Win First Chase Race

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

In the Stretch Run; Bowyer Conserves Fuel, Hangs on to Win First Chase Race

Article excerpt

Byline: DON COBLE

LOUDON, N.H. - One voice on the radio told Clint Bowyer to save gas for the final 40 laps of the Sylvania 300; another pushed him to run down leader Tony Stewart.

Bowyer eventually sided with crew chief Shane Wilson to save every drop of gas. And that's all he had left in his No. 33 Chevrolet when he won the first race in the Chase for the Championship on Sunday at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Wilson and team spotter Mike Dillon made compelling arguments, but Bowyer noticed something in Wilson's voice that convinced him he needed outlast everyone else, not outrun them.

When Stewart ran out of gas a mile from the finish line, all Bowyer had to do was be fast enough to hold off a hard-charging Denny Hamlin. Bowyer's car had just enough, running out at the end of his cool-down lap.

"I could tell in Shane's voice I needed to save fuel," Bowyer said. "But when you dominate the race, you owe it to yourself to take a chance to win the race. That's the kind of chances people take each and every week to win races."

By winning for the first time this year, Bowyer jumped from 12th in the playoff standings to second. He will be down 35 points to Hamlin going into next Sunday's race at the Dover International Speedway.

Although most of the Chase drivers said it's too early in the playoffs to gamble, Bowyer, Stewart and Jeff Burton all tried to stretch their final tank of gas to 92 laps on the one-mile track. Bowyer said his team calculated 75 laps as the maximum distance, but five caution periods for 23 laps in the final 92 laps allowed him to coast without using a lot of gas.

Stewart and Burton apparently didn't coast enough. Both ran out coming to the white flag. Bowyer saved just enough to earn a winner's check of $248,250, although he needed a push to Victory Lane.

"I hate to win races like that, but I've lost a couple like that, too," Bowyer said. "You want to go."

Bowyer led a race-best 177 laps, but Stewart and Jamie McMurray pulled away from Bowyer with 87 laps remaining during a re-start. Once Bowyer got past McMurray, his strategy changed to saving gas. If Stewart ran out, he had a chance to win. If Stewart had enough, the worse he could finish was second.

"We went down swinging for sure," Stewart said. "It's hard losing like that, but it's fun racing Clint like that. I think I ran me out of fuel. These guys [on the race team] said they're sorry, but I ran me out of fuel. I would have settled for second. But that's part of the sport. It always has been."

Stewart limped across the line - just 30 yards ahead of Bowyer's brief burnout celebration - in 24th place. He lost 94 points in the playoffs by running out of gas in the final mile.

Hamlin made a quick stop for gas with 85 to go, so he had enough to make a charge at Bowyer on the final lap. He got as close as three car lengths in the final turn, but he couldn't get any closer. …

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