Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) team ended the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday. The Emporia, Kan., native qualified the Rheem Chevrolet Impala in the sixth position and drove to a fourth-place finish.
As the green flag waved bringing the 43-car field to life, Bowyer shot to the fourth position. The driver’s climb forward was halted, however, with the event’s first caution on lap two for an accident in turn four. With the yellow flag waving so early in the race, the team remained on track in the fourth position.
Green-flag racing resumed on lap eight, and Bowyer immediately powered the Rheem Chevrolet up to third. By lap 14, the driver had the Chevrolet up to second but radioed to his KHI crew that it had become tight in the center and exit of the turns.
The yellow flag waved for a second time on lap 13 as debris from the No. 66 car hitting the wall coming off of turn four littered the track. The team again chose to remain on track and took the lap 17 restart from the second spot. Bowyer swiped the lead position just after the field returned to full speed but slid back to third on lap 19 as the Rheem Chevrolet’s tight-handling condition increased.
NASCAR called the scheduled competition caution on lap 35. Bowyer left the third position for pit road where the Rheem crew bolted on four fresh tires, added fuel and made air-pressure and chassis adjustments to the Chevrolet. The No. 33 left pit road in the fourth position but moved up to third as KHI teammate Elliott Sadler, then in third place, had to return to pit road for a penalty from the No. 2 team’s stop.
The race resumed on lap 40 with Bowyer quickly advancing to the second position. On lap 46, he radioed to his crew that the Rheem Chevrolet was still tight and slid back to third. The driver fought to maintain the position over the green-flag run but fell back to sixth by lap 80.
Scheduled green-flag pit stops began on lap 90. The No. 33 team called Bowyer to pit road on lap 91 and made a chassis adjustment in addition to changing four tires and adding fuel. Just as the driver was leaving pit road, a competitor spun on the frontstretch bringing out the yellow flag for the fourth time. Despite the ill-timed caution, the KHI Chevrolet was able to remain on the lead lap by taking the wave around and restart in the 12th position on lap 98.
As the 200-lap contest hit the halfway mark, Bowyer worked his way to the 10th spot. By lap 120, he was racing around the 1.5-mile track in seventh.
On lap 130, a car slapped the wall in between turns three and four to bring out the fifth caution flag. The team called their driver to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment and returned the No. 33 machine to the track in the fifth position. Ten laps back under green, the yellow flag waved again for a single-car accident in turn two. Bowyer was instructed to remain on track, a move that put the Rheem Chevrolet in the lead.
Bowyer led the field back to green on lap 152 and maintained the top spot until the No. 6 car passed the No. 33 on lap 154. As the leaders worked lap 165, the driver fell back to third where he remained until the seventh caution which came on lap 174 after a car scraped the wall in turns three and four. The KHI team called Bowyer to pit road for fuel and four tires. The driver returned to the track and lined up in fifth for the restart on lap 179.
Before the field could settle into the run, they were slowed for the eighth time as a car spun in turn two. Bowyer, running in fifth, remained on track and the race went back to green with only 14 laps to the end. The No. 33 moved into the fourth position following the restart but before the driver could gain any additional ground, a car spun down the frontstretch bringing out the ninth and final caution of the event on lap 188.
Bowyer maintained his fourth position for the final restart with seven laps to go. The driver fought to climb his way forward through the final laps of the event but came across the finish line in fourth.
The No. 33 team ends the 2011 season fourth in the Owner’s Point standings. With seven different drivers behind the wheel of the KHI Chevrolet, the team collected three poles, 15 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes across the 34-race schedule.