Bowyer seeking consistency

The Charlotte ObserverMarch 22, 2013 

NASCAR Fontana Auto Racing

Clint Bowyer talks with a crew member during practice Friday for this weekend's race in Fontana, Calif.


— The 2012 Sprint Cup Series season raised the bar for Toyota and Michael Waltrip Racing.

Both are finding out early this season that with the successes enjoyed in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series in 2012 come a lot of closer scrutiny, particularly when the perception is you haven’t picked up where you left off.

For instance, Friday’s qualifying prowess by Toyota teams raises the possibility the manufacturer’s victory drought at Auto Club Speedway will come to an end this weekend.

Denny Hamlin, who drives the No. 11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, won the pole for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 with an average lap speed of 187.451 mph.

His fellow Toyota drivers won’t be far behind.

Hamlin’s JGR teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth start fourth and fifth, respectively, while MWR’s Martin Truex Jr. starts seventh, Mark Martin eighth and Bowyer 12th.

Bowyer had been fastest in Friday’s practice session.

Expectations aside, Bowyer is in a better position than he was at this point one season ago.

He ended 2012 second in the series standings and with three victories. Yet Bowyer was eighth in points after that season’s first four races.

He enters Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway fourth in points but has led a single lap.

“That’s the one thing that we’re behind on is leading laps and a win, but if you really look at where we were at last year this time, it’s just a different set of circumstances,” said Bowyer, who will start 13th in Sunday’s race. “I think we’re running exactly the way we did last year.

“It’s just the expectations of what happened to MWR at the end of the year competing for a championship and being right there in the running catapults people into thinking — us included — that we need to be at least second in the points and contending for wins.”

It’s not that MWR teams have not been fast — they have. It’s just that they have not been in the hunt for wins at the end of races, in part hampered by some early-season engine issues.

“It’s just that’s what you expect after the way that the season ended last year, so I just think expectations are a little bit different,” Bowyer said.

“They should be.”

Some of those could be met Sunday with a win.

“Our speeds are fast with our Toyotas on these big race tracks. A Toyota (Kenseth) won at the only mile-and-a-half we’ve had (on the schedule) so far,” Bowyer said. “That speed will carry over, I believe, on this race track.

“We’ll be just fine.”

Auto Club 400 Lineup

At Auto Club Speedway

Fontana, Calif.

Lap length: 2 miles

1.11Denny HamlinToyota187.451
2.16Greg BiffleFord187.217
3.2Brad KeselowskiFord187.149
4.18Kyle BuschToyota187.13
5.20Matt KensethToyota186.688
6.22Joey LoganoFord186.514
7.56Martin TruexToyota186.273
8.14Tony StewartChevy185.864
9.55Mark MartinToyota185.792
10.78Kurt BuschChevy185.677
11.13Casey MearsFord185.157
12.42Juan MontoyaChevy185.085
13.15Clint BowyerToyota184.876
14.29Kevin HarvickChevy184.715
15.88Dale EarnhardtChevy184.625
16.5Kasey KahneChevy184.374
17.1Jamie McMurrayChevy184.233
18.48Jimmie JohnsonChevy184.044
19.24Jeff GordonChevy184.011
20.39Ryan NewmanChevy183.988
21.9Marcos AmbroseFord183.852
22.31Jeff BurtonChevy183.702
23.43Aric AlmirolaFord183.697
24.99Carl EdwardsFord183.57
25.47Bobby LabonteToyota183.248
26.51A.J. AllmendingerChevy183.113
27.27Paul MenardChevy183.02
28.83David ReutimannToyota182.825
29.7Dave BlaneyChevy182.658
30.35Josh WiseFord182.639
31.17Ricky StenhouseFord182.519
32.30David StremmeToyota182.473
33.93Travis KvapilToyota182.44
34.38David GillilandFord181.493
35.98Michael McDowellFord181.087
36.33Landon CassillChevy181.087
37.36J.J. YeleyChevyPoints
38.44Scott RiggsFordPoints
39.32Timmy HillFordPoints
40.10Danica PatrickChevyPoints
41.19Mike BlissToyotaPoints
42.34David RaganFordPoints
43.87Joe NemechekToyotaPoints

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