Ask Clint Bowyer about the impact his hometown of Emporia, Kansas has had on his racing career and you’ll get a rare moment of silence from the 38-year-old Monster Energy NASCAR Cup driver.
Then he’ll look you in the eye and respond with a short and powerful answer.
“People are what make you,” said Bowyer who, returns to race in Kansas Sunday in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. “As you grow up in a community, it’s the people within that community who you learn from and everything else.”
The lessons taught by the 25,000 citizens of Emporia haven’t faded.
“When I first started car racing, it was in a ’78 Camaro, it was junkyard parts so you had to go to Junkyard John and, if you blew something up or needed a brake caliper or an A-frame or just anything – a spindle – you had to go to see Junkyard John,” said Bowyer.
“My dad owned his own towing service in Emporia, so they always did business together and stuff. Impounded cars always went to the junkyard, and he always let me go over and rummage through the stuff and work on my stuff.”
If it wasn’t Junkyard John, then it was Muffler Don, who welded the roll cage with muffler tubing for Bowyer’s pony stock he rolled over about 12 times. Those two, along with a host of others, were responsible for helping Bowyer go from the Kansas dirt tracks to race in places like Daytona, Darlington and Indianapolis and build a NASCAR career that includes a 2008 Xfinity Series title, and eight Cup Series victories among his 429 starts in the sport’s highest division.
“Life’s all about timing, it’s all about chances that you get in life, and opportunities, and then you’ve got to be able to, I guess, have enough experience to prepare yourself for that opportunity and be able to capitalize on that opportunity,” Bowyer said.
“It seems like my career within a five- or six-year span went very fast, but we always kept moving. We never stayed in one class or anything, always kept moving up and forward progression, and that always enabled me to get in the next ride, the next opportunity, and capitalize on it really well.”
Bowyer hasn’t turned his back on Kansas, especially Emporia. He returns often to deer hunt, visit friends or just be part of the community. In March 2013, he bought the Clint Bowyer Autoplex car dealership on U.S. Highway 50, where he once worked as a lot attendant, dent specialist and detailer.
|Across the street sits the Clint Bowyer Community Building, constructed in 2012 thanks to a $1.5 million donation from his foundation. Inside are 25 new computers at the public library. There is a scoreboard at the aquatic center, a video camera at the auditorium, shoes for the Big Brothers-Big Sisters program, backpacks for kids, Christmas trees for needy families. And, in nearby towns, playground equipment and the reconstruction of a tornado-ravaged community center – all of it and more paid for by Bowyer’s foundation, or out of the driver’s own pocket.
Emporia appreciates its native son, having renamed the street on which the family towing business resides as “Hon. Clint Bowyer Boulevard.”
The days of Junkyard John and Muffler Don are long gone and replaced by Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), Ford Performance and Roush-Yates Racing who have combined to field Bowyer’s No. 14 Haas Automation Ford Fusion this season. But the desire that began in Emporia will be the same Sunday in Kansas City.
Bowyer’s list of racing accomplishments includes a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Kansas in 2011, but it’s a Cup Series trophy from the track that he hopes will take center stage in his trophy case. Over the years, Bowyer has enjoyed some success at Kansas Speedway, posting two top-five finishes and six top-10s with 48 laps led in 18 starts, including a ninth-place finish in May.
“Kansas is obviously at the top of the list, right up there with a Daytona 500, of places I’d really like to get a victory,” he said. “I won’t complain no matter where we win our next race, but winning at Kansas would be extra special for a lot of people in the Bowyer family.”
Bowyer enters the weekend after an accident left him with a 35th-place finish Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The incident ruined a race that saw Bowyer finish sixth in Stage 1 and third in Stage 2.
While he’s racing for 17th in the driver point standings after falling just short of making NASCAR’s 16-driver playoffs, Bowyer’s first year replacing three-time champion Tony Stewart in the No. 14 has been a success. The Mike Bugarewicz-led team has posted three second- and two third-place finishes.
The No. 14 team’s average finish of 15.3 is the 12th best of the full-time teams in 2017.
After Talladega’s disappointment, Bowyer could use some good luck, and there’s no better place than Kansas.
Just ask him.
|Clint Bowyer: Driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What is it like to go back and race in Kansas?
“It’s difficult to go home because of getting pulled in all the different directions – all the while trying to focus on getting a good run, because that’s really what’s important to you the most there. It’s important to me to run well in front of all my fans, friends and family.”
|No. 14 Haas Automation Ford Fusion Team Report
Round 32 of 36 – Hollywood Casino 400– Kansas
|Car No. 14: Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing
At Track PR Contact: Drew Brown with True Speed Communication (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 429th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 19th Cup Series start at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, where he has two top-five finishes and six top-10s. His average finish of 15.3 is 12th best of the full-time drivers in 2017.
- Bowyer owns career totals of eight wins, two poles, 63 top-five finishes, 179 top-10s and 2,360 laps led in 428 NASCAR Cup Series races. He also owns eight Xfinity Series victories.
- 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 34 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 Harvick won June 25 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.
- SHR has two points-paying victories at Kansas plus nine top-five finishes, 15 top-10s and two poles in 46 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’s Stage Victories In 2017
- Pocono (Pa.) Raceway Stage 2 (July 30, 2017)
- 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!