When the topic arises of whether anyone else can compete with the likes of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. this season, Bowyer’s name is most often mentioned.
But even Bowyer knows he and his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing need to get even better if they hope battle those three in the upcoming playoffs.
“You have to elevate your game and rise to their capabilities and expectations. Those guys, not only do they have the wins, they are dominant cars that have led a lot of laps when they get those wins and all the stage points and all that stuff,” Bowyer said Friday at Michigan International Speedway.
“You have to be able to do that more consistently. On our team, that is what we have to do. We have touched on that and made some mistakes and know we have to get those mistakes behind us to capitalize on every possible situation, every stage, every lap.
“We have to smooth out the highs and lows. You have to stay on top of the mountain. You can’t fall off the damn mountain.”
Bowyer won this year’s previous race at Michigan in what turned out to be a rain-shortened event. He also owns a victory at Martinsville, Va., and remains fifth in the series standings.
The Michigan race was the first of three consecutive top-five finishes for Bowyer, but to illustrate his point about being “smooth,” he hasn’t finished better than 11th since that run.
Even being fast at Michigan already this season, Bowyer said, is no guarantee of repeated success. He was seventh-fastest in Friday’s lone practice session.
“Kevin was the class of the field and I think we ran third for most of the race. We were right there,” he said. “All of our cars were really, really fast. That is the last race. That is so last week.
“You think about racing and whoever won last week, it doesn’t mean anything. Everybody gets better each week. You don’t go back after a win and sit on your hands and not do anything and talk about how good you were.
“You go to work on trying to get better. Doesn’t matter if you dominated the race and destroyed the field, you go back and go to work on getting better. That being said, everybody has had time to get better here and I know they will. I also know we have, too.”