Seconds after Clint Bowyer climbed from his No. 14 Ford Mustang June 2 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, he had a few words to summarize his fifth-place finish in the 400-mile Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
“That was all about track position,” said Bowyer, who has the same view more than a month later as the Cup Series returns to Pocono for Sunday’s 400-mile race.
“We weren’t happy with the finish in June because we were better than fifth – we had a really good Mustang that day,” Bowyer said. “It was really hard to pass, so it kind of came down to track position throughout. We lost a lot of stage points because of track position. I think you will see track position be just as important at Pocono again this weekend.”
Bonus points and track position will likely be key words repeated a lot this weekend at Pocono as the urgency builds in the Cup Series garage with the end of the 26-race regular season fast approaching.
With just five races remaining, Bowyer and a host of other drivers are on the cusp of securing or losing a berth in the 16-driver playoffs.
Bowyer arrives at Pocono 16th in the standings, but just 17 points ahead of 17th-place Jimmie Johnson and 72 points behind 10th-place Alex Bowman. He knows there is time to fall outside of playoff-clinching position, but also time to gain positions.
It all continues Sunday at Pocono, a track that has been kind to Bowyer over his career. He owns two top-five finishes and 10 top-10s in 26 career starts at the Pennsylvania 2.5-mile triangle. His Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team has also done well there. SHR has two victories at Pocono – Tony Stewart in June 2009 and Kurt Busch in June 2016 – and has 22 top-fives and 32 top-10s in 62 starts.
“We need to put together a good run in each of the next five races,” said Bowyer, who arrives at Pocono after a 20th-place finish last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. He started 16th and finished fourth in Stage 1 and appeared destined for a top-10 finish but contact with another car late in Stage 2 damaged his car ruining his chances for a good finish.
“We have been fast this year but something has seemed to happen and we shoot ourselves in the foot or get some type of bad luck,” Bowyer said.
“We aren’t giving up and we know we can run up front. With no mistakes, we are a top team. This is getting to the money time in our season. That’s when the pay window’s open, the money’s on the line, it’s go time. Let’s see what we’re made of. Let’s line these things up and get after it.”
At Pocono this weekend, Bowyer will carry the colors of Toco Warranty, whose Toco All-Star Sweepstakes offers fans a chance to get to Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. One lucky winner and guest will attend the season finales of the World of Outlaws World Nov. 8 to 9 at The Dirt Track near Charlotte, North Carolina, as guests of Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) before jetting off to South Florida to see the NASCAR season finale Nov. 16 and 17 with Bowyer and SHR.
To register, fans simply need to go to www.TocoWarranty.com. A winner will be drawn by 5 p.m. EDT on Sept. 16.
Toco Warranty partnered with SHR and TSR earlier this year. The provider of pay-as-you-go vehicle repair coverage is a primary partner of Bowyer and the No. 14 team of SHR and the co-primary partner of Donny Schatz and TSR’s No. 15 Winged Sprint car. Toco Warranty is also an associate sponsor of Tony Stewart, who is competing in more than 90 Winged Sprint car races this year.
Consumers demand affordable monthly payments and Toco Warranty offers an easy online experience via its website, www.TocoWarranty.com. It is where customers can purchase and review their vehicle service contract, manage online payments and access dedicated customer concierge services.
Clint Bowyer, Driver of the No. 14 Toco Warranty/Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are your thoughts on Pocono Raceway?
“Pocono is a really tough track with three different turns. I want to make sure we qualify well so we can get a good starting position and pit stall. As we saw in June, passing is pretty tough there, so track position is everything. We had a good car there last time and I expect we will again. Where we are in points (16th), we need to score as many bonus points as we can.”
What would it mean to win at Pocono with Mike Bugarewicz as your crew chief?
“I know that’s a dream of Buga’s to win at Pocono with his friends and family in the stands so, yes, it would be cool to win for him. But winning anywhere right now would be a celebration. I don’t care if it’s at Pocono, Watkins Glen or Michigan. So, to answer your question, yes, a win for Buga on Sunday at Pocono would make him, me, the 14 crew, everyone at SHR, Toco Warranty, Ford and everyone in the grandstands happy. Let’s do it.”
Mike Bugarewicz, Crew Chief of the No. 14 Toco Warranty/Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What does Pocono mean to you?
“There’s a simple, one-word description I have of Pocono, and it’s ‘home.’ I grew up about 20 minutes from the racetrack. I’ve raced up in the Northeast and attended many of the races at Pocono. I used to go to qualifying all the time there. Pocono means a lot to me. It would really mean a lot to me to have a win there at some point in my career. I haven’t been successful with that, yet, but I hope to change that shortly.”
No. 14 Toco Warranty/Haas Automation Team Report
Round 21 of 36 – Gander RV 400 – Pocono
Car No.: 14 – Toco Warranty/Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing
At Track PR Contact: Drew Brown with True Speed Communication (Drew.Brown@TrueSpeedCommunication.com)
No. 14 At-Track Crew Roster
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, South Carolina
Front Tire Changer: Ryan Mulder
Hometown: Sioux City, Iowa
Rear Tire Changer: Coleman Dollarhide
Hometown: Hickory, North Carolina
Tire Carrier: Dwayne Moore
Hometown: Griffin, Georgia
Gas Man: James “Ace” Keener
Hometown: Fortuna, California
Jackman: Sean Cotten
Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina
Windshield: Chris Trickett
Hometown: Grafton, West Virginia
Truck Drivers: Dale Lackey and Christopher Hamilton
Hometown:Taylorsville, North Carolina and Muncie, Indiana, respectively
Engineers: Lee Deese and James Kimbrough
Hometown: Rockingham, North Carolina, and Pensacola, Florida, respectively
Mechanics: Tony Silvestri and Robbie Fairweather
Hometown: Sylvania, Ohio and Aurora, Colorado respectively
Tire Specialist: Russell Simpson
Hometown: Medford, New York
Shock Specialist: Wayne Smith
Hometown: Melbourne, Australia
Notes of Interest:
Bowyer owns career totals of 10 wins, two poles, 78 top-five finishes, 205 top-10s and 2,935 laps led in 489 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races. He also owns eight NASCAR Xfinity Series victories.
His most recent Cup Series victory came at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn (June 10, 2018).
His most recent Cup Series pole came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (Sept. 16, 2007).
Bowyer’s crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, 37, grew up in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, competing on the high school football, wrestling and track and field teams. He also spent a lot of time watching his father race at Mahoning Valley (Pa.) Speedway and working on cars at his father’s business long before he even owned a driver’s license. He studied mechanical engineering and performed research for the U.S. Navy through Applied Research Laboratories in graduate school at Penn State University before heading to North Carolina to embark on a NASCAR career that peaked at SHR. He won a championship serving as the lead engineer on SHR’s No. 4 car with driver Kevin Harvick in 2014. He took over the No. 14 crew chief duties in 2016 for driver Tony Stewart’s final year of NASCAR competition that saw the three-time champion win at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and earn a berth in the playoffs. With Bowyer, Bugarewicz has visited victory lane twice and earned a spot in the 2018 playoffs.
Last weekend at New Hampshire: Bowyer started 16th and quickly climbed into the top-10, finishing fourth in Stage 1. Bowyer continued running at the front of the field in Stage 2 until he pitted with 10 laps remaining. On the restart, Bowyer made contact with another car, forcing him to pit for repairs. He fell to 29th and the damaged car only allowed him to climb to 20th by the time the race ended.
Bowyer at Pocono in June: Bowyer started third but fell back to 11th when he took four tires while others took two during the lap-20 competition caution. Bowyer climbed back to 10th when the crew called him back to pit road with two laps left in the stage in order to gain better track position for Stage 2. Bowyer finished 34th but moved to sixth during the stage break when the rest of the field pitted. He opted for a similar strategy at the end of Stage 2 and started the final stage in fourth. He appeared to have secured a third-place finish, but a caution with nine laps remaining forced a restart. Bowyer finished fifth.
2018 Pocono races: Bowyer finished 20th in the June 3 Pocono 400 after racing in the top-10 most of the race. A missed shift with five laps remaining dropped him from seventh to the back of the field. In the July 29 Gander Outdoors 400, Bowyer started 31st and raced to sixth in the first stage. He started 11th and climbed to third in the second stage. A speeding penalty on lap 121 slowed his progress in the final stage. Bowyer climbed back to 15th on lap 135 and continued his charge back to the front as he had in Stage 1. He restarted 10th with three laps remaining and then again during the final restart in overtime, ultimately finishing 11th.
Bowyer owns three top-five finishes and 11 top-10s in 27 career starts at the Pennsylvania 2.5-mile triangle.
SHR has two victories at Pocono (Tony Stewart in June 2009 and Kurt Busch in June 2016) and has 23 top-five finishes and 35 top-10s in 66 starts.
All-Time Victory List: With 10 career victories, Bowyer is in a 59th-place tie on the all-time wins list with Donnie Allison and Sterling Marlin.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!