RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Clint Bowyer sounds happy to be back at Richmond International Raceway.
NASCAR's last visit here in September 2013 threatened Bowyer's popularity with the fans when he spun intentionally with seven laps to go, causing a jumble in the race standings - and in NASCAR's playoffs.
Bowyer went from second in the standings heading into the Chase for the Sprint Cup to admittedly being distracted by a NASCAR investigation that led to fines and suspensions against Michael Waltrip Racing.
By the time the Chase was two races old, Bowyer was essentially out of contention.
''The fan base, Twitter and things like that - I took a beating for a while, but we weathered the storm, it's behind us and it's a lot of fun to interact with those fans whether it's good or bad,'' he said Friday. ''It's all positive interaction as far as I'm concerned because they are talking about our sport.''
Bowyer, who got married during the week off for Easter, would like to leave them talking again Saturday night for another reason: his third career victory at a favored track.
''Looking back over the years, you always have a track that fits your driving style and your confidence level is more for some reason, and this has always been the case for me,'' he said before practice.
''I'm looking forward to having another good run here and shaking that off from last year.''
Winless through eight races, and with only two top-10 finishes, Bowyer is 16th in points and eager to get that victory most drivers think will be a free pass into the 16-driver Chase format this year.
And, he says, the numbers are more dire than his team's actual performance. He counts Martinsville, Texas and California as tracks where he was right in the thick of contention until something happened.
''It's definitely been that kind of year,'' he said.
As for his new status as a married man, it has been one big celebration, starting with a number of friends in the Bahamas - ''They knew we were there. Just put it that way,'' he said - to more fun once he got home.
''It was a lot of fun. Train wreck is what it would kind of be considered, too,'' he said.
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