KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Clint Bowyer had his best finish at Kansas Speedway in more than six years Saturday. He led more laps at the track than he had since his first start in 2006.
But those accomplishments were overshadowed; a late-race incident with Erik Jones came to the forefront.
On the final restart of Saturday's Digital Ally 400, Bowyer, an Emporia native, surged toward the second spot at the start-finish line. But Jones blocked, disrupting Bowyer's momentum.
Jones went on to take third, two spots better than Bowyer.
After the checkered flag flew, Bowyer made his displeasure known, running into the back of Jones' car. Bowyer then pulled beside Jones' car, going door to door. Once the cars parked on pit road, Bowyer jumped out and confronted Jones about the manuever.
In his immediate post-race interview with Fox, Bowyer's emotions still were running high.
"We should have finished second. Everybody knows that," he said. "That was dumb on his part. ... I should have just wrecked him, I guess."
In hindsight, Bowyer felt he erred.
"That wasn’t very smart of me," he said. "If it had been another scenario or I had had some room, I would’ve turned him in front of the whole field. He (would) been back there wishing he wouldn’t have done that.”
"That was dumb on [Erik Jones'] part ... I shoulda just wrecked him, I guess."- Clint Bowyer pic.twitter.com/6mWEPDSbVB— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 12, 2019
The fifth place marked his fourth top five of the season through 12 races. And it's his first top five at his home track since also finishing fifth on April 21, 2013.
In the next 11 races at the track, he finished among the top 10 just once.
But despite the fifth-place showing exceeding his previous dozen efforts at the speedway, Bowyer still wasn't satisfied. It was "solid," he said.
"We did a good job of fighting for that finish," he said, "because it probably wasn’t exactly where we deserved to run the way we run tonight."
He said he expected far more. After qualifying third — part of a 1-2-3-4 sweep of the first four starting spots by Stewart-Haas Racing, along with teammates Kevin Harvick (the pole winner), Aric Almiora (second) and Daniel Suarez (fourth) — and boasting one of the three fastest cars in both practice sessions, that speed didn't translate once the green flag dropped.
Though the 12 laps led are his second-most ever at the circuit — trailing only the 43 laps at the front in his maiden race at Kansas in 2006 — and tied for fourth-most Saturday (alongside race winner Brad Keselowski), Bowyer said the car wasn't all that good.
As soon as the sun went down, he couldn't get a handle on it.
"It was tight, loose and just on top of the race track," he said. "There with two stops to go, we raised the back of the car up and it was fine in traffic then and was able to race. Then, all hell broke loose with the restarts and things like that. It was tires, no tires, two tires. Everybody’s on different strategies. Some people are a lap down that should’ve been up front. It was hard to figure out who you were even racing."
That his car came alive in the end, Bowyer said, allowed him to "go for it," even if restarts are unpredictable.
"The 20 (Jones) got to my outside over there getting into (turn) 3 and stalled me out, and I really thought it was over. We got another run down here in (turns) 1 and 2 and kind of got to the outside," Bowyer said. "It’s so hard to pass. Those things punch such a big hole into the air (and) you get behind and (get) back in traffic and you don’t have that much downforce as the car in front of you. You’ve got to definitely swing out wide, get underneath them (and) go somewhere where he’s not got that big wake in front of you. Some can do it better than others."
Had the entire race been run in daylight, Bowyer said he would have fancied his chances at victory more.
"When the sun was kind of out and early in the race ... I was like, ‘We’re going to walk away from these guys,’" Bowyer said. "Then halfway through, I started to kind of slip and slide around, and I knew we were going to half to make some adjustments. It was kind of tricky to figure out which way to go with those adjustments. We just missed it a bit.”