PIT NOTE #4

Friday, May 16, 2014

BOWYER WINS SPRINT SHOWDOWN; WISE TAKES SPRINT FAN VOTE -- Clint Bowyer claimed the top spot in the 29th running of the Sprint Showdown, racing his way into contention for NASCAR's largest purse.

And while Bowyer and second-place qualifier AJ Allmendinger are unsurprising additions to the 22-car field, one name in Saturday's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race may not be as familiar.

Josh Wise, driver of the No. 98 Dogecoins machine, earned the 2014 Fan Vote and a spot in the Saturday night shootout.

"I'm still trying to wrap my head around it I guess," said the 31-year-old. "This is huge for me and our team. Really this started with a 16-year-old kid posting something on Reddit.com about some good runs that we had, and for whatever reason this huge, awesome community got behind us.

"I'm just super thankful to be a part of it really. It's been a pretty cool experience."

Wise's popularity gained traction after a fan utilized the digital currency Dogecoin and popular media site to raise sponsorship funds for the April event at Talladega Super Speedway.

And though the young driver never doubted the community's influence, even he is in disbelief of their impact on his career.

"I saw the potential there," he said. "There's 110 million people who regularly use Reddit and a large portion of them knew about this so I thought it was definitely a possibility.

"I mean if you asked me two months ago there's just no way I would've thought this was possible. It's been really, really hard since I've been out here, and one of the challenges that I've faced is gaining momentum through sponsorship and gaining opportunities to showcase what I think I can do. So this is a big deal because obviously we have a lot of people behind us."

For his part, Bowyer is eager to use his win as a turning point for a frustrating season and prove he belongs among this year's field of all-stars.

"We haven't run well and haven't run where we're capable of running," said the eight-time Sprint Cup winner. "It's a humbling sport, and I'm a big boy. This is where we are. We gotta go out there and race hard, qualify to get in that race and become an all-star."

Allmendinger, who transferred to Saturday night's $1-million-to-win NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race by virtue of a runner-up finish, wrapped up a strong day at the 1.5-mile superspeedway.

"It was set off by a good practice this morning and a really good qualifying effort - to start up front and lead some laps," said the driver of the No. 47 Freightliner/Miller Welders Chevrolet. "Just being up front is important here."

Allmendinger set the pace for 18 of 40 laps in the Sprint Showdown, but wasn't able to hold off a hard-charging Bowyer.

"I knew Clint was fast, and we were pulling away from everybody else," he said. We're not really where we want to be. We don't have enough speed in it, but we're getting better."

Allmendinger, who shared the stage with Wise during post-race media availabilities, joked that racing his way in saved fans the agony of watching him dance.

"I was going to do the worm if I got voted in, but thank goodness for all of our sakes Josh got voted in," he said, nodding to Wise. "Can you do the worm?"

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