Oct 28, 2013, 2:30 PM EDT
After being one of the quicker drivers in practice this weekend, Clint Bowyer (pictured) was hopeful he could capitalize on that speed and take the victory yesterday at Martinsville Speedway.
But while the Michael Waltrip Racing driver was able to pace 60 laps in the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 powered by Kroger, he came up two spots shy of his goal, finishing third after new Chase co-leader Matt Kenseth edged him out for runner-up on the last lap.
“We were good, but we weren’t good enough,” said Bowyer, who was able to move up to sixth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, 55 points behind Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson.
“This has been one of our best tracks. As good as we were in practice, we tried not to mess with it too much and we ended up too tight. I was just too bound up in the center of the corner. No excuses. We ran a good race, we worked hard [and] got my car way better at the end. Just wasn’t good enough.”
Mindful of Kenseth’s bid for the championship, Bowyer made sure to play fair with his Toyota compatriot during their late duel for second behind race winner Jeff Gordon.
“I was pretty gingerly going in [the corner] because I had been loose in and I didn’t want to drive it in any harder than I did getting into three,” Bowyer said. “Because that one point didn’t mean nearly as much as it could have cost him. But a fellow Toyota driver – we owe it to each other to do that, and certainly it wasn’t for the win.
“If it was for the win, he would have probably got out of the way because I’m pretty hungry. But that wasn’t a big deal. [It was] certainly on my mind, yeah.”
Finishing behind Bowyer was Brad Keselowski, who logged a fourth-place result after starting 11th on the grid – his fourth consecutive Top-10 finish at Sprint Cup’s shortest track.
“It was a decent day,” Keselowski said. “It seems like every time we come to Martinsville, we run right in that fourth, fifth, sixth range and I was just trying to break out and get to victory lane, but came up a bit short today.
“It was a solid effort. We were quite a ways off at the start of the race and [crew chief] Paul Wolfe and everybody on the 2 crew dialed us in a little better and got some decent track position there at the end when it counts.”
Keselowski was able to largely avoid trouble on Sunday, which was not an easy feat to do as the yellow flag waved 17 times (still four shy of the Martinsville record).
“You’re not gonna win these races with your car all tore to hell and you’re probably not gonna win these races without putting a scratch on your car, so you’ve got to have a balance of both and mine is probably right where it needs to be,” he said. “We just need a little bit more speed.”