Is there a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver less likely to feel at home Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway’s road course than Clint Bowyer?
Or a better one?
The former body shop repairman grew up amid the wheat fields of Emporia, Kansas with the closest major road course at Heartland Park in Topeka, about 60 miles from Emporia. As he honed is driving skills, Bowyer was more focused on motorcycles and dirt ovals than twisty road courses.
The NASCAR Cup Series travels to the California road course set in the scenic Wine Country this weekend, and it’s Bowyer who tops the list of the most points scored on the 10-turn, 1.99-mile track in the last 10 years. Those impressive numbers include a 40th-place finish last year after a lap-five electrical fire.
“Not in a million years would I have imagined this success,” Bowyer said. “After the first couple stabs at it, I was relatively good out there. I struggled a lot at Watkins Glen but always was able to find pretty good speed and get settled in and get comfortable at Sonoma. It has been good to me, it’s a fun racetrack. It’s a short track of road-course racing and it just kind of fits my driving style.”
Bowyer’s best moment at Sonoma came in June 2012, when he held off now Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammate Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart, who co-owns Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford.
Bowyer dominated the race by leading 70 of the 112 laps. Defending race-winner Busch was all over the bumper of Bowyer’s car late and got a final shot in a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish. Bowyer raced side-by-side with Busch at the green flag, then cleared Busch and pulled away for the win. Bowyer had to walk to victory lane to celebrate with his crew after his car ran out of gas during the cool-down lap. Stewart passed Busch on the final lap to claim second.
Bowyer replaced Stewart in the No. 14 Ford in 2017 and is already off to a good start, posting two top-five finishes and five top-10s. The team is 12th in points as it heads to Sonoma, where Bowyer owns a victory, six top-five finishes and eight top-10s and has led 82 laps. He visits Sonoma for the first time driving an SHR Ford powered by Roush-Yates Engines under the guidance of crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, whose race call in this event last year, combined with Stewart’s driving, gave the three-time champion his final NASCAR victory.
Bowyer hopes he can also drive the No. 14 to victory lane at Sonoma.
“They’ve brought me hot rods all years so I expect to have one this weekend, as well,” Bowyer said. “It takes a heck of a lot to win a race these days, but I know we’ll have just as good of a shot as anyone else if all goes like we expect. They did it last year with Tony and I’d love to go to victory lane this weekend.”
For Bowyer, the trip to Northern California means an all-around good weekend.
|“It’s a fun weekend for everyone in the garage area,” he said. “It’s almost like vacation, it really is for everybody — the wives, the girlfriends – they all go on wine tours, we get done with practice and have our hands full with a complete mess on our hands. Nonetheless, everybody is having a lot of fun.”
Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford will carry a special Cars 3 paint scheme this weekend to promote the popular movie that opened this month. In the movie, blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen teams up with tech-savvy trainer Cruz Ramirez to get back into pole position.
Hopefully Bowyer’s movie will end as well in Sonoma.
|CLINT BOWYER, driver of No. 14 Ford Fusion featuring Cars 3 for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What helped you improve your road-course racing?
“I think a big part of it is engineering. They came into this sport — our engineers were able to get our cars underneath us way better than we could before. Those ringers would go test time and time again all over the place, all sorts of different racetracks, in preparation for these one or two races. And, when we’d get there, our focus is on those mile-and-a-half tracks that make up the biggest part of the season. That’s a big difference. When we get here and we’re on the same playing field as they are, I feel like I’m proud to say the Cup regulars are holding their own.”
|Team Report for the No. 14 Ford Fusion featuring Cars 3
Round 16 of 36 – Save Mart 350k – Sonoma
|Car No. 14: No. 14 Ford Fusion featuring Cars 3 for Stewart-Haas Racing
At Track PR Contact: Drew Brown with True Speed Communication (704-498-7596 or Drew.Brown@TrueSpeedCommunication.com)
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.
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
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
- Sunday’s race will mark Clint Bowyer’s 413th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and 12th Cup Series start at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, where he has a victory, six top-five finishes and eight top-10s and has led 82 laps.
- Bowyer owns career totals of eight wins, two poles, 60 top-five finishes, 172 top-10s and 2,351 laps led in 412 NASCAR Cup Series races. He also owns eight Xfinity Series victories. He is 12th in the Cup Series standings after 15 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 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway left Bowyer with a 15th-place finish. It marked his eighth consecutive top-15 finish. At Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, he led 10 laps but a late-race pit stop because of tire damage ended his bid for victory. At Kansas Speedway in Kansas City Bowyer finished ninth, his fifth top-10 finish of the season. In Charlotte, a tight-handling car throughout the 600-mile race left him with a 14th-place finish. Bowyer drove from 22nd to fourth in the opening 100 laps at Dover before an oil leak sent the No. 14 to the garage for repairs, after which he returned to the track to finish 31st. A brush with the Pocono (Pa.) Raceway wall left Bowyer with a 17th-place finish. At Michigan, a late-race accident left Bowyer with a 26th-place finish.
- Tony Stewart and Gene Haas co-own Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), which has recorded 37 victories and 33 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 one points-paying victory at Sonoma (Tony Stewart in 2016) and has five top-five finishes and eight top-10s in 23 starts. SHR cars have led 110 laps.
- 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
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!