Clint Bowyer in Charlotte - image: Michael Waltrip RacingEnlarge Photo
Stock car racing isn’t always about keeping the accelerator mashed to the firewall and out-driving the competition, especially in longer races. These days, winning a 500 or 600 mile race is as much about fuel conservation and pit strategy as is is about finding the right drafting partner and being aggressive when it counts.Clint Bowyer
never dominated Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway
; in fact, it originally looked like points leader Brad Keselowski would extend his lead in the Sprint Cup standings, until the Penske driver ran out of fuel on track prior to a pit stop, Ultimately, Keselowski would finish eleventh.
Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin both appeared to be faster than Bowyer, but a relative lack of yellow flags and a strategy that called for careful fuel management slowed both drivers. When you get paid to win races by being faster than the guy next to you, having to worry about fuel economy must be particularly frustrating.
When the white flag waved, both Johnson and Hamlin were so worried about running out of gas that they couldn’t race Bowyer to the line. At the checkered flag, it was Bowyer, followed by Hamlin, followed by Johnson. Greg Biffle finished fourth, but spots five through seven went to drivers not in the running for this year’s championship.
If there’s good news for Johnson and Hamlin, it’s that Keselowski’s lead in the championship has now been shaved to just seven points over Johnson and 15 points over Hamlin. Bowyer’s win puts him a mere 28 points behind Keselowski, so it’s still anyone’s game. With five races remaining, the championship is still clearly up for grabs.