Bowyer believes Talladega is his shot to pounce

Associated Press Published: October 1, 2012
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But it's so hard to make up significant ground in the Chase, as Jeff Gordon has shown the last two weeks. He opened the Chase ranked 12th and a wreck in the opener at Chicago cost him. Gordon has bounced back with a third-place finish and a second-place finish the last two weeks, but he's still 10th in the standings.

That's why Bowyer believes Talladega is so critical. He thinks any trouble for the top three drivers opens the door for everyone else.

"If you win Talladega, it doesn't matter what has already happened, you are going to put yourself right back in it," he said.

On paper, he'd be the pick for Sunday.

Bowyer has two wins and is the only driver to finish inside the top 10 in his last five Talladega starts. He's scored a series-best 465 points in that span, and his 3.4 average finish is also tops. Bowyer has led 82 laps, second only to Matt Kenseth's 116.

But the racing is different now that NASCAR has set rules designed to eliminate the two-car tandem drafting that Bowyer has mastered. And, he won his races with Chevrolet horsepower driving for Richard Childress Racing, and he's still adapting in his first season with MWR and Toyota engines.

He was debating Talladega strategy hours after Sunday's ninth-place finish at Dover, and said how he races will depend on how he qualifies. A poor qualifying run, for example, would start Bowyer deep in the field and the best strategy would be to hang back to avoid an early accident.

Problems on Sunday — and he expects more than a few Chase drivers to have some — could thin the field even more.

"You know, Darrell Waltrip said it best, he said each week there's another team that takes themselves out of the championship hunt until there's just a couple left," Bowyer said. "Nobody has gone out there yet and taken control, everybody stubs their toe and takes themselves out of it one at a time. Talladega is going to be a place where that happens, and it's my chance to capitalize when it happens."