Even if he wanted to get away from thinking about one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history, Clint Bowyer couldn't.
Bowyer spent some of last week's open date taking a vacation in the Bahamas. Even there, his second-place finish to Jimmie Johnson — by .002 — in the April 17 race at Talladega was a topic of conversation.
"I had people come up to me (and say), 'Oh, man, it was so close,' " Bowyer said. "I'm like, 'Oh, shut up, you know?' "
Bowyer has had back-to-back runner-up finishes and four consecutive top 10s. He has vaulted into 10th in points after a miserable early-season run.
"Steady" has characterized Bowyer, a 31-year-old Kansan. "Spectacular" would require winning more.
Asked if there was any satisfaction in making NASCAR history — he tied Kurt Busch for the closest losing margin since electronic scoring was instituted in 1993 — Bowyer said: "It's never very good to know you made NASCAR history by losing. Sooner or later I need to start making history by winning."
Bowyer has four wins in 189 career starts. Still, he's lurked as a consistent presence in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship on the strength of 29 top-5 finishes and 83 top 10s.
"I don't think it's any one big thing that's keeping us from winning multiple races and being a bigger threat," he said. "It's just more of the same, continue to ... improve. I feel like we've done that. I feel like I've gotten better each and every year I've been in a car and in this sport, and it's time to take that next step."
Bowyer won at Richmond in 2008, and it's one of his stronger tracks, with an average finish of 9.8.
"The first four races were just terrible, and we dug in deep and got things turned around," said Bowyer, who was 24th in points after Bristol.
"But we've got to win races. I've been saying that all the time, and it's time for myself and our race team to prove ourselves this year."