The last two weeks have been a rough patch for Richard Childress Racing's Clint Bowyer. Two wrecks and two finishes outside the top-35 have dropped Bowyer to 12th in the standings and putting a Chase spot in doubt.
"This is a crucial time for us," Bowyer said. "We've got them breathing down our necks and we're still within reaching distance of the cars in front of us, so this is a good time to get things pointed back in the right direction points-wise. But I tell you, with this crazy wild card thing, this is a good track for us to get a win and solidify ourselves in the Chase. So it's an important weekend for sure."
Bowyer has the potential to find Victory Lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as evidenced by his two career victories at the track, including last year's Chase opener. That win, however, was overshadowed by a mid-week penalty handed out by NASCAR that cost Bowyer the points lead and potentially a shot at the championship.
Returning to New Hampshire, Bowyer is still frustrated by the untimely penalty, but more so by the attention it continues to draw.
"The biggest thing that I don't understand about it is that it passed post-race inspection and it gets back to something that nobody understands or knows a lot about; which is fine," he said. "I was OK. A penalty is a penalty and if you're caught, you're caught; it doesn't matter what I think at the end of the day.
"Kyle Busch was low at Pocono; and I know the significance of what that does for a race car. And it was a lot more than 60 (thousandths of an inch out of tolerance). That's the way that I look at that and he got a slap on the wrist and we got pretty much a season-ending penalty."
Despite his comments, Bowyer said he has moved on from the penalty and is frustrated answering questions about it. Instead, Bowyer and his crew are focused on rebounding from two tough weeks.
While he admitted it would have been easy to become negative about their results at Daytona and Kentucky, he said the team has kept their focus since "there are so many positives" about their season so far.
"We've run well and that's what has put us in this situation," he said. "To have two bad weeks in a row and still be in the top 12 in points shows that our season has been pretty good. But we've got to put together a string of good runs and we've done that.
We had six straight top-10 runs there and two of them were top-two finishes and we almost won at Texas. We almost won at Talladega. We can do it. We've just got to get back after it and make it happen."