JOLIET, Ill. – Without a doubt, Clint Bowyer will look at Sunday’s Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway as a race that got away.
Bowyer had driven from his fifth-place starting position to the front of the field before the first round of green-flag pit stops. But when he brought his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to pit road on lap 39 of 267 and gave up the lead, Bowyer was too fast on exit. That meant a pass-through penalty, and on his next trip down pit road, Bowyer sped again. The second infraction requires a stop-and-go, but Bowyer failed to stop on his third pass down pit road. So Bowyer returned to pit road for the fourth time, stopped in his pit stall and continued.
By then he was more than two laps down to the leader, but Bowyer fought back. Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz kept him on the track during a pit stop cycle in Stage 2 and was rewarded with a caution for debris in turn two.
That got Bowyer back on the lead circuit as the highest scored lapped car, and from there the two-time 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner salvaged a fifth-place result.
Bowyer, however, was far from satisfied.
“Yeah, we were too fast (on pit road),” Bowyer acknowledged. “The guys work very hard on making sure that they are pushing the envelope, which you have to do in this world and against this competition. You have to push everything. Certainly, pit road is a big part of that. You’re splitting hairs out there on the race track down to the tenths of a second, and you can gain seconds on pit road.
“Obviously, our pit road speed was just a little too fast. We practiced it yesterday, and the guys even made some adjustments, but that tight section down there was just too fast. The first time you second-guess yourself. You come down the second time, and you’re cautious and speed again, so now you know you’ve got a problem. Then it was just confusion on my part. I wasn’t listening (to the stop-and-go instructions) and made a mistake and cost us a third time down.
“We got good at pitting today, unfortunately. The capability is there to run with these three guys (Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.). Our race team is young and making some mistakes, but we have time to gain on those and build on those. You hate to give away those stage points. I think we could have won both those stages and maybe be in contention for a win… We have a lot of good mojo on this 14 car, we just have to put it all together to get another win.”