BRISTOL, Tenn. -- The disappointment was obvious.
Even though Clint Bowyer clinched a berth in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, crew chief Brian Pattie wasn't exactly thrilled with his driver's 14th-place finish in the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
"We ran out," Pattie said, explaining up Bowyer's final-lap free fall from inside the top five to outside the top 10. "We only took two tires there (on a final stop) then we went the rest of the way and sometimes you (don't get it) full. I was doing my best to get track position after getting dumped."
Bowyer finished 14th but still managed to lock himself into one of the 10 points positions for the Chase, which will begin Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway. He joins five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson, who had already sewn up one of the 10 spots, and Matt Kenseth, whose fifth win guaranteed the Joe Gibbs Racing driver no worse than a Wild Card position.
"It means a lot," Bowyer said of the Chase berth, "but I'm really just disappointed ? because we had a really good car. Absolutely nothing went our way all night."
Bowyer led 50 laps (126-175) before contact from a lapped entry sent the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota for a spin on lap 176. He had just put Travis Kvapil of BK Racing a lap down when Kvapil drove hard into Turn 4 and made contact with Bowyer.
After sliding along the frontstretch, Bowyer's car was struck in the side by Bobby Labonte.
"I felt like we had a shot at winning and then I got spun out by a lapper, of all things," he said. "When I got hit up there, it hit that left-front tire, and the car never turned the center (of the corners) as good the rest of the night."
Bowyer restarted 26th, mired deep in traffic and well behind the lead pack.
By lap 350 of the 500-lap race, however, he had rejoined the top 10, and was back in the top five 25 laps later.
"I'm extremely proud of the guys -- they got it fixed back up," he said. "We went out there and gave it everything we had and just came up short. Then we ran out of gas there at the end."
"The car was fast," Pattie said. "He hauls ass here. I'm going to put this on my to-do list for getting trophies, right next to Martinsville. We've run good enough the last three or four times here to get a win."
It will be Bowyer's fifth appearance in the Chase, and his second since moving to MWR prior to the 2012 season. His second-place points finish a year ago was a career-best.
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