Clint Bowyer loses early Chicagoland lead after 3 pit road penalties

JOLIET, Ill. -- Clint Bowyer often fills his postrace interviews with comedy.

Unfortunately for Bowyer, his comedy routine was on the track Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.

Bowyer led 21 of the first 38 laps but gave up the lead in serving three penalties over laps 40-50 following a series of errors in the Overton's 400, in which the Stewart-Haas Racing driver rallied to finish fifth.

"You come in leading and make those mistakes. It's just not very good," Bowyer said. "The guys work hard on pushing the envelope there. ... [Our comeback] was just a day late and a dollar short.

"Everything we battled through and everything we prevailed through, it just wasn't our day, I guess."

On his first green-flag pit stop, Bowyer sped in the final section on pit road. It is a short section at just 41 feet -- NASCAR determines pit road speed using timing lines in the track -- and he was caught at 50.06 mph. The speed limit was 50.00 mph, as NASCAR's pit road speed was 45 mph, and drivers aren't penalized unless they are 5 mph over.

The penalty for that violation is to drive down pit road at pit road speed. Bowyer did that, and in that last section, Bowyer posted an identical 50.06 mph.

The penalty for that is to drive down pit road at pit road speed, stop in his pit box and leave at pit road speed. Bowyer got confused and drove down pit road without stopping in his box.

Then he had to come down and fulfill the penalty properly.

"The miscommunication was the last kick in the pants. ... It was just confusion on my part," Bowyer said. "I wasn't listening and made a mistake and cost us a third time down."

The cars don't have speedometers. They have lights on their dashboards that tell them if their RPMs are over the pit road limit. Bowyer indicated that his lights told him he was good.

"I knew when I came back in the second time, boys, it ain't on me -- the ol' calculator [on the RPMs] is a little fast," Bowyer said. "It was a good rebound. You hate it that we probably should have led a lot of laps and won a couple of stages."

All those trips down pit road put him two laps down. Although he did rally, his chances for the win were slim. He characterized his rally as being the result of being "pissed off and had a fast race car."

"You can't ever say that you would have won, but I do think that had the potential of being a missed opportunity," crew chief Mike Bugarewicz said. "Getting one speeding penalty is one thing, and when you get the second one, it just compounds it.

"Coming down pit road three times, it's a lot to overcome. I'm glad we did. It showed the character of our team."

Bugarewicz wouldn't put it under the "stuff happens" category.

"The first one, yes [it happens], but having to pit the next two times, we've got to clean that up," Bugarewicz said. "We've got to get better than that.

"I get it. We're all pushing the limits, and that's what we're going to do. I'm going to make mistakes pushing the limits in tech, and we're going to get in trouble. But doing it twice in a row, and that third thing was just a communication problem. That can't happen."