CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
The Chase was effectively over for Bowyer before it began. He opened with a ninth-place finish at Chicago, where points leader Matt Kenseth won, and was 17th the next week at New Hampshire, where Kenseth won again. Just like that, Bowyer was 10th in the standings and out of the title hunt.
He acknowledged Monday the Richmond drama “definitely” contributed to the No. 15 team stumbling out of the gate.
Bowyer wasn’t the same off the track, either. Dale Earnhardt Jr. noted last month that it had been difficult to watch Bowyer suffer through the backlash from fans.
“Clint is a good guy and obviously was just following orders,” Earnhardt said. “He did some things that were out of character and regrettable, and he feels terrible to have any involvement in it. I know that for a fact. I know that to be genuine. It’s been tough watching him go through that process, too, because he’s not that kind of guy to go starting that kind of mess.”
Bowyer said he read things about himself over the last seven weeks, heard things on the radio, and learned to bite his tongue.
“Out of respect and understanding the magnitude of the situation, I never would have dreamed in a million years that would have escalated into what it did, it was a bad deal,” Bowyer said.
“Hardest thing I’ve ever been through in this sport, but certainly not the hardest thing I’ve been through in my life. It was tough to listen to those things for a while. It’s not like me to just keep my mouth shut. I wanted to bite back, but certainly, again, respected the situation. I understood the magnitude of it and knew I was part of it and didn’t want to be.”