Clint Bowyer: Restrictor Plate Racing Isn’t Chess

Clint Bowyer
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series tackles the high banks of Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway Sunday for what is normally one of the sport’s most exciting races of the season. By now, everyone knows Talladega racing often leads to nearly 40 cars racing four-abreast, 10 rows deep at 200 mph for more than three hours.

Talladega is about crashes and near crashes with short tempers among stressed-out drivers. Tune in to the radio or television broadcast of the race and the commentators are sure to call the action a “high-speed game of chess.”

But Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), isn’t buying that cliché.

“Chess is sitting there, bored out of your mind, thinking of all the other things that you would rather be doing,” Bowyer said. “There’s a guy across from you, you’re trying to figure out if he’s actually into it or doing the same thing, bored out of his mind, thinking about all the things he would rather be doing.”

Bowyer said NASCAR restrictor-plate racing is so much more than any cerebral pursuit.

“You’re literally freaking out, making knee-jerk-reaction decisions the whole race,” he said. “You’re reacting to things that you don’t even remember. You’ll get out of the car at the end of the race, and somebody’ll be like, ‘Man, that was an awesome move that won you the race!’ And you’re like, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ There were at least 4,000 instances of what won that race or didn’t win that race.”

Don’t let Bowyer kid you; he knows what he is doing on restrictor-plate tracks, especially at Talladega, where he’s won twice and posted six top-five finishes in his 22 career starts at the 2.66-mile track. Bowyer has scored the most points of any driver in the last 10 Talladega races but, even after successful days like he has enjoyed there, he says he’s mentally and physically weary after each race from all the exertion.

“There’s so much going on inside the car, whether you’re listening to the spotter, or you’re looking at – as you’re listening to him, you’re following along to – that story in the mirror, right?” he said. “You’re living it through the windshield. I mean, there are so many things that are going on, you just – you flat out – don’t take it all in. I mean, your brain is registering so many things that, at the end of the race, you don’t even remember half of it.”

Bowyer rides a wave of success to Talladega with top-15 finishes in all nine of the 2017 races except for the season-opening Daytona 500, where a midrace accident ended his day. He’s earned two top-five finishes and four top-10s this season. The No. 14 team led by crew chief Mike Bugarewicz has climbed to ninth in the standings.

“Everybody is working really hard and we are just having fun,” Bowyer said. “SHR is a fun organization and Ford is a fun manufacturer to work with. We still haven’t put everything together and been the best we can be, but Sunday will be our 10th race working together and we expect things will continue to improve.”

Bowyer’s racing fortunes have improved since arriving at SHR this season to replace three-time champion Tony Stewart, who retired from NASCAR competition. Bowyer would like to go down in the history books as the first driver to bring SHR a Talladega victory. The organization’s 37 victories in 864 Cup Series races since its 2009 inception have come at every track except Talladega and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.

Whether or not Bowyer makes history for SHR Sunday afternoon in the normally unpredictable Talladega race, it will be more entertaining than, say, a game of chess.

CLINT BOWYER , Driver of the No. 14  Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How important are teammates during restrictor-plate races?

“Well, I think that’s where the problem lies, right? You have teammates out there, and you need ’em, to get right down to the end. And, by the way, now you need to beat ’em, so it’s an interesting problem when you have teammates like mine who you need all the way through. And then, hopefully, we line up one-two-three-four there at the end. You’re like, ‘Well, which one can I use right there to the end, who I know I can trust the most?’ Nobody’s trustworthy during these things. You can’t be.”

What are your thoughts on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement?

“His retirement is going to be a huge void. We are all going to miss Dale Jr. We all enjoy him being around. He was making fun of me on Twitter Sunday morning in Richmond. That’s what I’m going to miss as a friend and person, forget the racetrack. We are all cooped up in the motorhome lot most weekends like a bunch of animals, so that time we get to enjoy with one another is what you will miss the most.”

Haas Automation Racing Team Report

Round 10 of 36 – GEICO 500 – Talladega

Car No. 14:     Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing
 
At Track PR Contact: Drew Brown with True Speed Communication (704-498-7596 or Drew.Brown@TrueSpeedCommunication.com)
Primary Team:

 

Driver: Clint Bowyer

Residence: Emporia, Kansas

 

Crew Chief: Mike Bugarewicz

Hometown: Lehighton, Pennsylvania

 

Car Chief: Jerry Cook

Hometown: Toledo, Ohio

 

Engine Specialist: Matt Moeller

Hometown: Monroe, New York

 

Engine Builder: Roush Yates Engines: Mooresville, North Carolina

 

Spotter: Brett Griffin

Hometown: Pageland, S.C.

Over-The-Wall Crew:

 

Front Tire Changer: Ira Jo Hussey

Hometown: Manchester, New Hampshire

 

Front Tire Carrier: Brett Morrell

Hometown: Windham, Maine

 

Rear Tire Changer: Chris McMullen

Hometown: Canton, Michigan

 

Rear Tire Carrier: Josh Sobecki

Hometown: New Kensington, Pennsylvania

 

Gas Man: James “Ace” Keener

Hometown: Fortuna, California

 

Jackman: Getty Cavitt

Hometown: Owensboro, Kentucky

 

Windshield: Justin Peiffer

Hometown: Lebanon, Pennsylvania

Road Crew:

 

Truck Drivers: William “Stump” Lewis and Rob Fink

Hometown: Linkwood, Maryland and Baltimore, Maryland, respectively.

 

Engineers: Lee Deese, Chris Chidgey and Kenny Oates

Hometown: Rockingham, North Carolina, Gainesville, Florida and Huntersville, North Carolina, respectively.

 

Mechanics: Tony Silvestri and Rich Letendre

Hometown: Sylvania, Ohio and Lowell, Massachusetts, respectively

 

Tire Specialist: Russell Simpson

Hometown: Medford, New York

 

Shock Specialist: Wayne Smith

Hometown: Melbourne, Australia

Notes of Interest:
  • Sunday’s race will mark Clint Bowyer’s 407th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and 23rd career Cup Series start at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, where he has two victories, six top-five finishes and 12 top-10s and has led 100 laps.
  • Bowyer owns career totals of eight wins, two poles, 60 top-five finishes, 171 top-10s and 2,338 laps led in 406 NASCAR Cup Series races. He also owns eight Xfinity Series victories. He is ninth in the Cup Series standings after nine races.
    • His most recent Cup Series victory came at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (Oct. 13, 2012).
    • His most recent Cup Series pole came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (Sept. 16, 2007).
  • Bowyer in 2017: A 17-car accident on lap 127 of the Daytona 500 collected Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford and left him with a 32nd-place finish. At Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bowyer started 24th and climbed to third with 85 laps remaining before contact with another car and a cut tire left him with an 11th-place finish. At Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the No. 14 Ford team struggled early but improved throughout the race to finish 10th. At Phoenix International Raceway, Bowyer drove from 17th to 13th in overtime. Bowyer repeated his overtime feat at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, when he drove from sixth to third in the added laps to record his best finish of 2017. At Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Bowyer overcame a midrace accident to finish seventh. He finished 11th at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and second at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. A penalty while running sixth last weekend at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway left Bowyer with a 15th-place finish. It marked his eighth consecutive top-15 finish.
  • Tony Stewart and Gene Haas co-own Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), which has recorded 37 victories and 32 poles since its inception in 2009. Stewart won the 2011 NASCAR Cup Series title and Kevin Harvick gave SHR its second title in 2014. SHR’s Kurt Busch won this year’s season-opening Daytona 500.
  • SHR has not won at Talladega, but it owns two top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 46 starts. Talladega and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta are the only tracks on the 2017 schedule where SHR has not visited victory lane.
  • Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz is in his second season after overseeing Tony Stewart’s final campaign in 2016. Bugarewicz’s pit strategy played a key role in Stewart’s victory at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in June 2016. The Lehighton, Pennsylvania native served as the lead engineer on Stewart-Haas Racing’s (SHR) No. 4 entry in 2014 and 2015. The Penn State University graduate was the only rookie crew chief to be part of last year’s Cup Series playoffs.
  • Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford will carry a special decal on the hood this weekend highlightingHaas Automation’s Demo Day 2017 planned for May 10. The annual event provides Haas Factory Outlets an opportunity to feature the latest CNC machines, innovations, and technology from Haas Automation. The outlets will showcase machine-cutting demonstrations, as well as educational seminars to explain how the latest Haas machines and options can make companies more efficient and profitable. Current Haas users, potential customers, and anyone in the manufacturing industry is invited to attend and learn how the latest Haas machines can help a business be more productive, efficient, and profitable. For more information, please contact a local Haas Factory Outlet.
  • Bowyer Cup Series Career Victories:
    • Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (Oct. 13, 2012)
    • Richmond (Va.) International Raceway (Sept. 8, 2012)
    • Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway (June 24, 2012)
    • Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (Oct. 23, 2011)
    • Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (Oct. 31, 2010)
    • New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (Sept. 19, 2010)
    • Richmond International Raceway (May 3, 2008)
    • New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (Sept. 16, 2007)
  • Bowyer Cup Series Career Poles:
    • New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (Sept. 14,2007)
    • Darlington (S.C.) Raceway (May 11, 2007)
  • Bowyer Career Cup Series Points Finishes:
    • 2016   27th
    • 2015   16th
    • 2014   19th
    • 2013   7th
    • 2012   2nd
    • 2011 13th
    • 2010   10th
    • 2009   15th
    • 2008    5th ​
    • 2007    3rd
    • 2006   17th
  • Bowyer Cup Series Career Stops:
    • 2017  Stewart-Haas Racing
    • ​2016  HScott Motorsports
    • 2012-2015  Michael Waltrip Racing
    • 2006-2011 Richard Childress Racing
  • Bowyer Xfinity Series Career Victories:
    • Dover (Del.) International Speedway (Sept. 26,2009)
    • Daytona (Fla) International Speedway (July 3, 2009)
    • Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (March 15, 2008)
    • Richmond (Va.) International Raceway (May 4,2007)
    • Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway in Avondale (April 20, 2007)
    • Dover (Del.) International Speedway (Sept. 23, 2006)
    • Memphis (Tenn.) Motorsports Park  (Oct. 22, 2005)
    • Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway (June 12, 2005)
  • Bowyer Camping World Truck Series Victories:
    • Kansas (Kan.) Speedway in Kansas City (June 4, 2011)
    • Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway in Avondale (Nov.12, 2010)
    • Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (Nov 3, 2006)

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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