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Clint Bowyer tries to put heartbreak and disappointment behind him, and promises a heck of a party if he wins the Kansas 400

  Clint Bowyer, now out of the chase, barring a last ditch miracle, is trying to look ahead (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   KANSAS CITY, Kansas
   This part of the country is home turf for Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards...two men who at the moment are going in decidedly different directions, as NASCAR's championship playoffs head into Round Three of the 10-race chase.
   Edwards is on the charge....while Bowyer is reeling.
   Bowyer won at Loudon just two weeks ago, but that devastating NASCAR penalty has knocked him out of the title chase, barring success in his last-ditch appeal.
   So Bowyer, who comes here with nothing to lose, is calling Sunday's 400 "one of the most important races of my year."
   And the Emporia native says he's tried to have "a lot of fun" the past few days out here, while NASCAR was judging his team back in Charlotte.
   "Back to my old stomping grounds," Bowyer says. "Worked on my dirt car, putting engines in. Felt like the old days – Late-Model boys cleaning their cars up and working on the Modifieds and having fun. 
    "Had our annual fan club gathering (Thursday night); it was a lot of fun.  That is a neat thing to do -- those are your fans. Those people, you mean as much to them as they do to us."
    Laughing on the outside but crying on the inside, maybe.
    The guilty NASCAR verdict?
   "Here's my answer to that: I'm very disappointed...and not surprised at all.  I'll just leave it at that," Bowyer says.
    "I'm looking forward to getting that behind me. 
    "This is an important weekend.  I made some mistakes on the track last week that were uncharacteristic; we made some mistakes as a team that were uncharacteristic. Our heads weren't 100 percent in the game. 
    "I don't want this mess to bother us anymore.  I'm at my home track, I'm having fun, and that's what I aim to do."
   Bowyer concedes that, 235 points down to leader Denny Hamlin, "the championship hopes are done for me. 
   "The thing I have to do (now) is be the best teammate I can be. (Teammates Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton are still in the hunt.) We have to bring a championship home.  We still have two shots at that.
    "For me and our team, I've never finished out of the top-five in the chase, and I want to continue that streak. And I think that's an attainable goal. 
    "But the biggest thing is to be the best teammate I can be."
     And try to not let all this controversy get him down.
   "You just have to get it out of your mind, you know," Bowyer said. "That's the best thing about coming here – there's so much distraction, so many other things, that I don't have to worry about that." 
   So he started Tuesday night: "I took my dirt guys out on the town, and went over to Harrah's and just had fun, and enjoyed Kansas City.  This is a fun area. 
    "Think of this area -- Wyandotte County -- and what this track has done to this area.  This used to be a housing development, and a bad part of town.  Now this is the best part of town. And it's all due in part to this race track. This whole area has turned around. 
    "The new soccer complex (under construction right next to this track) is going to be awesome. The casino when it gets done is going to be unbelievable.
     "I'm proud of being from Kansas.  I think all of us in NASCAR are proud of this place, because it's a lot of fun. Everybody looks forward to coming here."
    But is that last-ditch appeal hanging over him?
    The final appeal? "I've told Richard 'It's not worth fighting. In my opinion, their minds are made up," Bowyer says.
   "It is what it is, and if you want to be a part of this great thing we call a sport, you better just go on and enjoy what it is.
   "He's fighting hard, and I'm proud of the case they put together. They worked very hard on it; they put a lot of time and energy and money into presenting a case."
   And now his title bid is over.
   "That's an emotional roller coaster that nobody wants to ride, trust me," Bowyer says.
   "This sport is very humbling sport, I can promise you."
    Will it change Bowyer?
    "It is an ordeal, isn't it?" Bowyer mused. "You just have to go about doing what you do.  If that changes who I am, you would be fake to begin with. 
    "We'll get through it.  We've got to get through it this weekend – I'm here to win this race.
    "And I can promise you if we win this thing it will be a big party."



 But the strain is showing in the face of crew chief Shane Wilson (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



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