Clint Bowyer was a frustrated man after he crashed out of Monday’s rain-delayed Michigan race.
Bowyer had a top-10 car but hit the wall in turn 2 on lap 130 when he made contact with Erik Jones. Bowyer was put in the middle three-wide when Austin Dillon went beneath both Bowyer and Jones. His car slid up towards Jones and went spinning into the wall.
Bowyer finished 35th. After he exited the medical center following the crash, he offered a searing take on the racing that was transpiring on the track.
“I mean, it is not racing,” Bowyer said. “I am sorry, I am biting my tongue. I have never been penalized for trying to make a pass in my whole life since I was 4 years old. You get a run on somebody and you can make a complete pass and by the time you get to the next corner you have been passed by four people. It is really, really frustrating.”
The cars on Monday at Michigan were fairly close together throughout the field. But it was very obvious that the draft was necessary for cars to make passes. And no one could pass Joey Logano. He led 75 percent of the race.
Drivers who got off the gas significantly in a corner or made a mistake paid the price by losing momentum. And lots of positions. As Bowyer notes, it was far easier for a driver to lose track position because of a racing mistake than it was for a driver to make a pass on the driver ahead of him.
You can argue that’s how racing should be. After all it should be hard to pass. But the penalty for trying a pass and failing shouldn’t be far greater than the reward.
That’s the conundrum NASCAR finds itself with 15 races into the 2019 season. Drivers and teams are forced to protect their track position knowing that it’s far easier to lose it than it is to gain it back thanks to NASCAR’s new rules and the increased impact of dirty air.
The racing on Monday wasn’t bad per se. Cars were close together and the draft clearly played a role. It was, largely, what NASCAR wanted to see when it made its 2019 rules.
But it wasn’t the best example. The latest post-restart pass for the lead that didn’t involve pit stops came eight laps after a restart on lap 141 when Kevin Harvick stole the lead away from Logano for a lap.
Clean air had a lot to do with Logano’s win. He clearly had a good car and drove a fantastic race. But he was aided a lot by track position and the clean air that came with it. And it’s entirely rational to think that NASCAR racing should be impacted far less by clean air and track position than it currently is.
Dispelling the restart myth
NASCAR in 2019 has been a lot about the excitement that restarts create. Or, if you prefer, the perceived excitement. If you have an Athletic subscription, I highly encourage you to read this piece by David Smith on how drivers are gaining fewer positions per restart and losing more positions per restart in 2019 than they have in previous seasons.
Kevin Harvick should have taken 2 tires late
The race’s final pit stops took place with fewer than 20 laps to go under green. While Kevin Harvick might not have had a car as good as Joey Logano’s, it was at least in the group of second best along with Martin Truex Jr.
That’s why it was perplexing when Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers elected to take four tires on their final pit stop as much of the field took two tires.
The extra time Harvick spent on pit road meant he re-entered the race near the back of the top 10 and wasn’t in a position to challenge for the lead on the race’s final two-lap restart. Harvick ended up finishing seventh when he should have finished in the top five.
“We had a really fast Busch Light Ford and just made a lot of mistakes today,” Harvick said.
Erik Jones is having some terrible luck
Jones’ day went south after he had contact with Bowyer.
Jones was on pace for a top 10 ahead of the incident on lap 130 and then ended up bringing out the final caution of the race with a flat tire with five laps to go.
He ended up 31st and is now two spots out of the playoffs despite having consistent speed few drivers have been able to display throughout the season. Jones is easily the driver whose position in the standings isn’t living up to the speed shown in 2019 and he has just 11 races to get back into the playoff bracket.
That’s not great for 2019. And potentially beyond. Jones is working on a contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing and some good finishes would go a long way in sealing that deal as Christopher Bell continues to show great speed in the Xfinity Series.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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