Clint Bowyer sits on the bubble that floats between those drivers who have secured a berth through victory in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series 16-driver playoffs and those hoping to win or acquire enough points to join in the 10-race title battle.
Bowyer is 17th in the standings, trailing 16th-place Matt Kenseth by 26 points, 15th-place Jamie McMurray by 34 points and 14th-place Chase Elliott by 39 points. Assuming there will be no first-time race winners the remainder of the regular season, Bowyer needs to outscore one of those drivers or drive his No. 14 Ford to victory lane to gain entry to the playoffs.
Counting Sunday’s 400-mile race at Michigan International Raceway in Brooklyn, only four races remain in the regular season before the start of the playoffs Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois.
Bowyer admits he can hear the sands in the hourglass running out on the regular season. He also knows most every question he’ll get from media and race fans the next few weeks will likely remind him of the playoff bid and the accompanying pressure.
So, how is he handling it all? Bowyer says he is enjoying the moment.
“This is a lot of fun,” said the Emporia, Kansas native who replaced three-time champion and Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) co-owner Tony Stewart in the No. 14 in 2017. “I love this time of year. There’s no pressure. This is racing and it’s fun.”
Many might ask how he can joke about something that’s been at the top of his bucket list since February, something that is also accompanied by sponsor and team hopes. Bowyer’s confidence comes from knowing he and his crew chief Mike Bugarewicz-led team are doing the right things to win races, as well as from his past success.
Bowyer owns three top-five and five top-10 points finishes in 11 NASCAR Cup Series seasons.
“You just have to take it in stride and go out and do your job,” said Bowyer, who also won the NASCAR Xfinity Series title in 2008. “It’s no different than the first time I climbed into the No. 14 Ford down in Daytona. We knew then that we needed a win and we still know we need a win. We’ve been close this year. Three second-place finishes but we have to push through and get that win.”
Bowyer knows the strength of the competition in the sport these days, but he’s also aware he’s showing up at the track with a chance each weekend. That will be no different in the next four races.
“I’m with the right team with Buga (Bugarewicz) and the crew, right organization with SHR and right manufacturer with Ford,” he said. “We just have to put it together. Our time is coming. It’s going to happen. But it needs to happen pretty soon.”
It could happen this weekend at Michigan, where Bowyer has scored a top-five and 11 top-10s in 23 starts at the 2-mile, D-shaped, ultra-fast oval. He’ll pilot the No. 14 Ford carrying the Nature’s Bakery paint scheme for the final time in 2017. He hopes to continue his recent streak of good performances that included a fifth-place finish at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International last weekend.
Bowyer can go a long way toward improving his playoff chances this weekend in Michigan.
Who knows? He might even burst that bubble.
|Clint Bowyer: Driver of the No. 14 Nature’s Bakery Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What is the key to victory at Michigan?
“A fast hot rod goes a long way in this sport. We’ve been running up front, we have to stay there and get a little bit better. Improvement is always what you want. You want to just keep improving and getting better. That is really all you can ask for. I am pretty proud of us getting better. Hopefully we will keep improving as years go on.”
|No. 14 Nature’s Bakery Ford Fusion Team Report
Round 23 of 36 – Pure Michigan 400 – Michigan
|Car No. 14: Nature’s Bakery Ford Fusion 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 McMullenHometown: 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 420th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 24th Cup Series start at Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn, where he has one top-five finish and 11 top-10s.
- Bowyer owns career totals of eight wins, two poles, 63 top-five finishes, 177 top-10s and 2,360 laps led in 419 NASCAR Cup Series races. He also owns eight Xfinity Series victories. He is 10th in the Cup Series standings after 22 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).
- Tony Stewart and Gene Haas co-own Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), which has recorded 38 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, and Kevin Harvick won June 25at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.
- SHR has one points-paying victory at Michigan (Kurt Busch in June 2015) and has 10 top-five finishes and 18 top-10s in 50 starts.
- Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz is in his second season after overseeing Stewart’s final campaign in 2016. Bugarewicz’s pit strategy played a key role in Stewart’s victory at Sonoma in June 2016. The Lehighton, Pennsylvania native served as the lead engineer on SHR’s 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.
- Bowyer’s Top-Five Finishes In 2017
- Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (April 24)
- Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway (June 25)
- Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (July 1)
- Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (March 26)
- Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (April 9)
- 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!