After chasing the Roush Fenway cars for the first part of Saturday night's race at Texas Motor Speedway, Clint Bowyer finally got the chance to get out front, seizing the lead off of a restart.
The clean air allowed Bowyer – the only car that was able to consistently compete with the Roush brigade – to create and briefly stabilize a 1-second lead over eventual race winner Matt Kenseth. But that lead – and potentially the race – vanished when Bowyer came up on the lapped car of Brian Vickers.
"I got in the lead there, and got away from him once, but I was driving, you know, as hard as I possibly could to stay in front of [Kenseth], obviously," Bowyer said. "I just forced the issue a little too much. Got loose underneath, having got into him, and almost ruined the night."
Bowyer drifted up into Vickers off of Turn 4, and the contact from Bowyer's right front into Vickers' left rear had Bowyer facing the grass for an instant. Incredibly, Bowyer saved the car from crashing, but that loss of momentum meant that he lost the lead for good to Kenseth.
While he never got near Kenseth's bumper again – Kenseth beat Bowyer to the line by eight seconds – Saturday was Bowyer's third straight top 10 after finishing 15th or lower in the first four races of the season.
If Bowyer makes the Chase this season, that save could be the definining moment. With the second-place finish, he's now 12th in the points, 55 points behind leader Carl Edwards. If Bowyer hadn't saved the car and, say, finished 29th, he'd be 21st in the points standings. That's a lot of cars to pass to get near the top 10.