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Monday, August 16, 2010

Battle for the Bubble: Bowyer Vs. Martin

Going into Michigan Speedway's Carfax 400 Mark Martin held a 10 point lead over Clint Bowyer for the coveted 12th spot in the Series Points Race. Bowyer began the race in the third spot after a solid qualifying run on Friday while Martin earned the 12th starting position. The number 5 Hendrick Chevrolet found itself scraping the wall while racing for position early and Mark fell back rapidly through the pack

Kurt Busch's Blue Deuce blew up early and caused the first caution to come out on lap 31. Almost everyone headed to the pits for fuel, tires, and adjustments. Martin came into the pits showing in 34st position. Bowyer had stayed near the front of the field through the beginning of the race but lost two position in the pits and restarted in seventh place on lap 39 while Mark restarted in 33rd position.

After 50 laps in the Carfax 400 Mark had improved little and was watching his Chase hopes slide backwards. Clint was running in seventh place to Mark's 31st. At 59 laps complete a second caution came out for sprinkles at Michigan Speedway. Lap 60 saw the lead lap cars again coming into the pits. Mark offered the complaint that the car was “tight, tight, tight” and took an air pressure adjustment, added wedge, and took out rubber along with four fresh tires and fuel. Bowyer had no complaints regarding his car and took a full tank of fuel and four fresh tires. Bowyer came out of the second pit stop showing still in 7th place. Martin found himself back in the pits two more times for repairs to the front end of the car stemming from his earlier scrape with the wall before the green flag dropped and Mark restarted 34th on lap 67.

Things remained much the same through lap 150 between the pair fighting for the bubble spot. Pit stops began again for lead lap cars on lap 149. Martin and Bowyer both made slight adjustments, took four tires, and filled up with fuel. The pair came back out for green flag racing on lap 152 in familiar territory with Bowyer in 6th and Martin in 30th. Bowyer's car started tightening up on him and he began to slide backwards through the pack. By race end Martin had gained one place to finish 29th and Bowyer found himself in the 13th finishing spot.

Post-race Clint Bowyer holds a 35 point lead over Mark Martin for the 12th spot in the Chase for the Championship. 158 points separates Bowyer from 11th place Greg Biffle. The 12th spot battle will likely remain between Bowyer and Martin, with the possibility of Ryan Newman or Jamie McMurray gaining ground from another 68 and 70 points back, respectively.

Bowyer has been the stronger performer between he and Martin for most of the season. Clint Bowyer has an average finish in 2010 of 15.82 after the Carfax 400 whereas Mark Martin posts an average finish of 16.22. Going into Bristol next weekend Martin may have the edge; Mark's average finish at Bristol is a 12.93 while Clint's average finish is over five spots behind at an 18.00. Will the duo switch again after Bristol to find Mark Martin back in the Bubble spot or will Clint hold him off and finish ahead of Mark at Thunder Valley? One thing is for sure, with only three races left before the beginning of the Chase to the Championship neither Mark Martin or Clint Bowyer will give up easily.

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