Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage has proclaimed Sunday's race as a campaign between points leader Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski to decide who will rule NASCAR's "oval office."
But third-place Clint Bowyer, who sits just 26 points behind Johnson and still considers himself very much alive in the championship, joked he has a plan to close the gap on the drivers he's chasing..
"Well, Jimmie wasn't in New York when (Hurricane) Sandy hit – he was in North Carolina it looks like, so he made it," Bowyer said Friday. "So scratch that from the list of ideas possibly that I could win this championship. I think a hit man is probably out. He rides his bicycle a lot – I was hoping maybe he would blow his knee out or something. Nothing career-ending or anything. Maybe painful; something painful to keep him out of the car."
All joking aside, Bowyer understands beating Johnson requires an extraordinary effort by everyone involved. That's why it would mean so much to him to beat Johnson and win his first Cup title.
"It's incredible the job they do each and every year and it's a challenge for everybody to try and outrun him," Bowyer said. "They are so solid. We saw it in Kansas: About the time you think, ‘Oh boy, they've done stubbed their toe now,' they had a hell of a Band-Aid and got it fixed right back up. I think he finished right behind me, and it's like, ‘How did they possibly do that?'"
As for the talk about it being a two-man race for the title, Bowyer could really care less.
"I don't know if you've noticed, but it really doesn't matter if the focus is on me or not," he said. "We have fun and go about our business the way we're going to go about our business and enjoy ourselves. It doesn't matter."
In Bowyer's mind, a lot can happen in three races. One slip-up by Johnson or a bobble by Keselowski and it quickly opens the door for either Bowyer or fourth-place Kasey Kahne to drive through and pounce. And in all likelihood, the championship will be decided in the final laps at Homestead.
"You can go into Homestead 20 points out and win this thing," Bowyer said. "You never know what's going to happen. Anything can happen. It could come down to the last lap, Jimmie runs out of gas and you win the championship. We've seen that before. There's just so many crazy things that could still happen."
What Bowyer is focusing in on is his No. 15 running well enough to capitalize on any potential mistakes the two championship leaders may make.
"You just have to play your cards right, you have to put yourself in position and we've done that each and every week," Bowyer said. "We've done a great job."
Those words come from a driver who has been in this position before, as Bowyer twice previously he has finished fifth or better in the year-end standings. And in his first year with Michael Waltrip Racing, Bowyer is just happy with the success he and his team have had together.
"It's amazing to see the smiles on everybody's faces," Bowyer said. "This time of year, it's winding down and everybody is starting to get over it usually about 15 races ago. This group just keeps digging and pushing harder and having more fun. That's what's cool about being with my guys."