Clint Bowyer walked away from a wild last-lap crash at Dover (Del.) International Speedway on Saturday after running in the top three for most of the 200-lap event. The No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet team was credited with a 14th-place finish following the multi-car accident.
For the second week in a row, weather canceled the NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying session, leaving the 43-car field to be set according to the NASCAR rule book, which establishes starting order per practice speeds. Bowyer and the No. 33 Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) team started the rain-delayed event from the third position, and just as the cars roared up to speed, they were quickly slowed by the wave of the yellow caution flag.
Bowyer restarted in the fourth position on lap 8 and in two laps was up to second place. The second caution of the day came at lap 20. Over the caution laps the driver relayed to his KHI crew that the handling on the No. 33 Chevrolet was a little loose going into the corners, but felt pretty good driving around the one-mile concrete oval.
On the restart at lap 25, Bowyer shot to the lead as the field went into turn one. The second-place competitor didn’t give up easy and fought the Kansas native for the lead position, which he eventually relinquished at lap 30. The battle continued and Bowyer prevailed with the lead by lap 39 until the scheduled competition caution at lap 40. Bowyer radioed to crew chief David Hyder that the No. 33 was still slightly loose but handling good overall, so the KHI team executed a minor chassis adjustment in addition to the four tires and fuel on a solid stop during the caution.
Bowyer took the lap 47 restart from the third position, and another strong start enabled him to take the lead as the field rounded out the first lap back under green-flag conditions. An accident before the completion of that lap quickly slowed the field for a fourth time. The caution period was brief and NASCAR returned the field to green-flag racing at lap 51 with Bowyer in the lead.
After green-flag racing resumed, Bowyer commented to his crew that his Chevrolet was now tight as it raced around the Monster Mile. Over the next 35 laps the driver fought to hold the lead but was shuffled into second place. With the fifth caution of the day at lap 87, Bowyer relayed further feedback on the handling of his Rheem machine, stating that it seemed to start off tight then gradually became loose over the course of the green-flag run. Hyder worked up a plan for adjustments to help alleviate the handling issues and the KHI crew made a chassis adjustment after bolting on four tires and adding fuel.
NASCAR brought the field back to green at lap 101 with Bowyer in the third position. Now just over the halfway point in the race, Bowyer continued to hold track position among the top three. At lap 131, still holding the third-position, he communicated to his team that his Rheem Chevrolet was growing increasingly loose the longer the green-flag run continued. Help came in the form of a caution at lap 139, which offered the team a good opportunity to make further chassis adjustments and air-pressure adjustments in a continued effort to improve the balance of the No. 33. However, the caution offered drivers and teams an unexpected break as rain picked up, causing NASCAR to wave the red flag and bring the field to a stop on pit road for weather to pass.
After an approximately 30 minute delay, the 200-lap contest resumed with Bowyer in the third position for the lap 149 restart. Back under green, the No. 33 Chevrolet was posting the fastest lap times on the track. Bowyer held on to the third position, working hard to make a move forward as the remaining laps went by.
With the race down to only two laps, an accident on the frontstretch brought out the caution flag, sending the race into overtime. The field made the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish with a lap 202 restart. Bowyer worked from the third position to make a move on the second-place driver, but the yellow quickly waved again, bringing the field to a second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.
Still holding the third position, Bowyer took the final restart at lap 209, hoping to move ahead and take the lead. As the leaders came out of turn four approaching the white flag, the driver in second got sideways in front of Bowyer and careened into the No. 33. Bowyer made hard contact with the competitor which sent his Chevrolet on its side and into the inside wall. Thankfully, when the car came to a stop, he was able to climb out unharmed. With the wild multi-car accident bringing out the yellow and checkered flags, the event was concluded and the No. 33 was scored in the 14th position.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Iowa Speedway for a rare Sunday race on May 22. Austin Dillon will return to the driver’s seat of the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet. Tune in to ABC at 2:00 p.m. ET for the John Deere Dealers 250 presented by Pioneer.