Based on his Phoenix Raceway record, Clint Bowyer’s top-five in the FanShield 500k last week was a bit of a surprise.
It had been more than a decade since he finished that well on that track and since 2014 he had only two top-10s. Last year he finished 11th in the spring and eighth in the fall, which wasn’t bad, but didn’t engender a lot of excitement.
It’s a little easier for Bowyer to grab your attention at Atlanta in the QuikTrip 500. He has some of the same warning signs there as he did at Phoenix. From 2011 (when this track first began to host only one race per season) through 2016, his best finish was 24th and his average was 33.17. That long string of bad results is a big part of the reason that in terms of career average finishes, this ranks as his second-worst track.
But once he moved into the No. 14, things changed. In 2017 he finished 11th. That was the first time since 2010 that he completed all of the laps. He was third behind teammate Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski the following year after finishing second in Stage 1 and ninth in Stage 2. That was his first ever top-five on this track.
In 2019, Bowyer scored his second consecutive top-five.
Last year, Bowyer finished 10th in both stages, had an Average Running Position of 7.9, and was never out of contention for a strong finish. In all likelihood he would have finished on the high side of the double-digits if not for a loose wheel for Joey Logano, a shredded tire on Ryan Blaney’s Ford, and a flat right rear for Daniel Hemric. Tire management and avoiding mistakes is part of this sport, however; Bowyer and his team did a better job than most of Team Penske.
After looking at a driver’s track record, we like to turn our attention to similar courses. Bowyer went from Atlanta to Vegas and finished 14th. His next two starts on this track type were a pair of top-fives with a second at Texas and a fifth at Kansas – another track that had not always been kind to him.
Bowyer showed some inconsistency in the middle of the year. He finished 24th at Charlotte, 37th and Chicagoland, and 25th in the second Vegas race. But four of his last five races on 1.5-mile tracks ended between sixth and 11th.
Tack on a 12th at Vegas three weeks ago and Bowyer has a four-race streak of top-12 finishes. That seems to indicate that a result on the cusp of 10th is in the offing and it is enough to make him a solid mid-cap pick.
Equally important, Stewart-Haas Racing seems to have turned their fortune around last week with a sweep of the top 10, so it’s time to start forming that bandwagon.
Career Average Finish: 19.6 in 19 starts (ranked 23rd)
2019 Atlanta: 5
2018 Atlanta: 3
2020 Las Vegas: 12
2019 Homestead: 6