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BOWYER: “We’re Getting Closer”

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FONTANA, Calif. — Clint Bowyer earned his first top five in more than a year and a half with a third-place finish at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday.

Bowyer, 37, last had a top five at Bristol Motor Speedway in August 2015 with Michael Waltrip Racing. After the team had shut down, he signed a one-year deal with HScott Motorsports for 2016, which, like MWR, no longer competes in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and had only three top 10s all year.

But now with Stewart-Haas Racing in team co-owner Tony Stewart’s former ride, he is resurrecting his career and has finished in the top 15 four times in the first five races of 2017.

“Having this crew behind you, this organization, the teamwork, it’s amazing just to be a part of it and part of my career,” Bowyer said. “Thank you to Gene Haas and Tony Stewart for giving me this opportunity. It means a lot to work with this team and have a lot of fun with [Mike Bugarewicz, crew chief] and all these guys.”

He also added his finish in the Auto Club 400 was a “momentum builder.” He was essentially the only SHR driver to have a good day as none of his teammates finished in the top 10.

“Obviously, we’re getting closer,” he added. “This is a good track for me. I wanted to win that damn thing, but to come home with a wild finish and everything that it was, we’ll take it.”

Bowyer earned 12 Stage points in the race and now sits 11th in the playoff standings. He’s failed to make NASCAR’s postseason twice since his runner-up finish in the 2012 championship with MWR.

The season is still young, but he’s smiling as much as ever and rightfully so — he’s with a team that won the Cup title in 2011 with Stewart behind the wheel.

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John Haverlin

John Haverlin is currently studying Communication at Arizona State University. He has been a reporter at Phoenix International Raceway for three years and has written news stories for the track's official site. Born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., Haverlin has lived in Arizona the past three years.