CONCORD, N.C. – Clint Bowyer got himself back in the hunt for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship by winning the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday night.
Fuel mileage was the name of the game as the 500-mile event neared the finish. Bowyer never had the fastest car during the event, but in the closing laps Bowyer was one of a handful of drivers who opted to try and stretch their fuel to the finish.
With less than 30 laps to go most of the field began to pit for fuel, leaving Bowyer, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson to try and make it to the finish without pitting. Hamlin closed the gap on Bowyer in the final 10 laps, but he was never close enough to challenge Bowyer at the end.
“What a wild day. I want to do a burnout. Am I ever going to get to do a burnout?,” Bower joked after running out of fuel mere moments after winning the race. “I’m just very proud of these guys, very proud of everybody. We’ve had cars all year long capable of winning. To be able to win three times for me and everybody, we’ve led laps and we’ve just had a great year.”
The victory was Bowyer’s third of the season and the eighth of his Sprint Cup career. Bowyer is now fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, only 28 points out of first.
Hamlin finished second in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and remains third in the Sprint Cup standings, 15 points out of first.
“Darian (Grubb) just waited a really long time to cut me loose and I still didn’t go to my full capability,” Hamlin said about the final run to the finish. “I feel like we may have left a win on the table here, but still a good day for our FedEx Toyota.”
Johnson’s third-place finish allowed him to close within seven points of Brad Keselowski, who led the most laps and finished 11th, in the Sprint Cup standings.
“We started saving double the distance, so I knew we were going to be fine (on fuel), we were just being really cautious and didn’t want to go up there and chase the 11 and get ourselves in trouble,” Johnson said. “We’re getting a lot better at these fuel mileage races. It’s a tough thing to do.”
Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch completed the top five Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.