Clint Bowyer Plays Fuel Strategy to Perfection, Wins Bank of America 500
Clint Bowyer played the fuel strategy game to perfection, sneaking in to win Saturday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“If you’re not the fastest car here, you’ve gotta have options,” said Brian Pattie, crew chief for Bowyer.
Bowyer definitely wasn’t the fastest car, but he and his No. 15 5-hour Energy Toyota team turned a solid but unremarkable top-10 car into a winner simply by saving fuel over the final green-flag stretch.
It turns out that Bowyer had enough fuel to win his first race at Charlotte Motor Speedway but barely an ounce more. While trying to perform a post-race burnout, the tank ran dry, and suddenly his Michael Waltrip Racing crew was pushing the car the length of the track back to Winner’s Circle.
“Man, am I ever going to get to do a burnout?” Bowyer asked after winning his third race this season with no fuel left in the tank. “[Pattie] told me we were good to the end, so I went ahead and took off, and it quit on my first rotation of a burnout. So we were pretty close [on fuel].”
Bowyer inherited the lead on lap 310 of 334 when many of the leaders headed to the pits, leaving just Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch and Mark Martin on the lead lap. Hamlin was the only car within striking distance of Bowyer in the closing laps but was told to conserve fuel.
By the time Hamlin was green-lighted to stop conserving, he didn’t have enough real estate to catch Bowyer, despite charging hard in the final corners to finish second.
“It would be interesting to see how much we had left and see if we could have cut the reins a little earlier and tried to catch the 15 [Bowyer],” Hamlin said. “We just needed one more lap.”
Johnson ended up third, with Biffle and Busch rounding out the top five.
Brad Keselowski led the most laps (139), but crew chief Paul Wolfe tried to stretch the No. 2 car’s fuel window well beyond mortal limits. Keselowski ran out of fuel on lap 276 while trying to stretch his tank, shuffling him back in the field and taking him out of contention for the rest of the night. He ended up 11th but keeps the NASCAR Sprint Cup points lead by seven.
“It’s like playing blackjack,” Keselowski said. “Sometimes you get a good deal, but you’re not gonna win ‘em all; you know that. And you hope that when you’re sitting there with 13, you’re not gonna have a lot of chips in the pile. We didn’t lose too much.”