When you think Clint Bowyer, you think unfiltered personality. Yet this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, Bowyer will proudly wear a filter as his No. 14 Ford Fusion from Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) carries the colors of WIX® Filters in the Overton’s 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
Fans have seen plenty of Bowyer and his gregarious personality this year as the Emporia, Kansas-native has scored two wins along with five top-five and nine top-10 finishes. In those post-race interviews – particularly the ones from victory lane – an unfiltered Bowyer has showcased his fun-loving nature, and in the days and weeks that followed, authentic, smile-inducing media interviews and social media posts have made Bowyer one of the hottest drivers in NASCAR.
Want proof? In the days before NASCAR Cup Series teams traveled to Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway for last weekend’s road-course race, television commentator Jeff Burton came up with an interesting take during a debate about which four drivers will comprise the Championship 4 in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Not surprisingly, most of the expert panel predicted SHR’s Kevin Harvick, along with Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., as three of the four drivers who will battle for the championship. After all, the trio has won 12 of the 16 races so far this year.
But the surprise of the debate came when Burton, himself a 21-time NASCAR Cup Series race winner, predicted the fourth driver in the title battle.
“Who’s that guy? I think it’s Clint Bowyer,” Burton said on NBC Sports. “I think about consistency. He isn’t a guy who might win six races a year, but he is always going to grind out finishes. Consistency is what he is good at. I think you are also seeing, at this point in his career, Bowyer adding a little more speed. He’s happy with his team and he and his crew chief get along. He’s having fun, enjoying what he is doing, and I think he is going to be that fourth guy.”
For his part, Bowyer isn’t ready to say he and his team are a lock for the Championship 4, but he did say the combination of SHR, Ford and Roush Yates Engines puts the No. 14 WIX Filters team in contention.
“It is a lethal package right now,” said Bowyer, who after finishing third at Sonoma sits sixth in the championship standings. “This is a humbling sport and I have been all over the place with it – high, low and everywhere in between. It just makes you appreciate the ride you are on right now and the group that I am around. We are hitting on all eight cylinders and getting the most out of our weekends and starting to get the consistency back that we were kind of lacking last year. The capability is there within the team. It is a team effort.”
Burton’s comments stirred debate on social media, but looking at Bowyer’s career record, is it really a surprise to include him in predictions for who will comprise the Championship 4?
Before arriving at SHR in 2017, Bowyer had finished in the top-five in the championship four times for two different organizations. In 2007, he finished third in points driving for Richard Childress Racing and, in 2012, he finished second in points driving for Michael Waltrip Racing. Before arriving in the Cup Series, Bowyer won the 2008 NASCAR Xfinity Series title.
It was easy to sleep on Bowyer in recent years when he drove for a team going out of business and then with a small team without a history of success. Bowyer arrived at SHR in 2017 to replace the recently retired and three-time series champion Tony Stewart. Bowyer and his new team turned in a solid year, posting the 11th-best average finish, but they were unable to capture that elusive victory and fell just one spot short of making the playoffs.
Fast forward to 2018 where Bowyer and his No. 14 WIX Filters team are being tabbed as championship contenders. It’s a status Bowyer credits to SHR’s corporate partners like WIX Filters, which provides the parts and expertise that yields an advantage. WIX Filters engineers work side-by-side with its teams, applying their research in the ultra-competitive world of auto racing to the everyday demands of light- and heavy-duty consumer and commercial usage.
“WIX Filters has made racing filters for more 50 years for a lot of champions all over the world,” said Bowyer. “I’ve used them in the racecars I drive as well as the dirt cars we run at Clint Bowyer Racing. It’s the best filter in racing and that’s why you’ll find them on every SHR Ford this season. WIX Filters have already contributed to SHR’s success this year, and I expect that will continue this weekend in Chicagoland.”
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 WIX Filters Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are your thoughts on Chicagoland Speedway?
“Chicago has always been a cool racetrack. It is a sister track to my home track in Kansas and that fan base up there is that Midwestern fan base I feel most comfortable with, and I enjoy going to that racetrack and interacting with them in the infield and everything else. Again, we are fortunate to be able to race all over the country and see different people in different ways of life. We’ll show them our new WIX Filters paint scheme this weekend and I hope they get as big a kick out of it as we do.”
What will it take to be a championship contender?
“To be able to compete at that level, you have to be able to unload week in, week out with cars capable of getting the job done. Most of that is the work that’s put in before the week even starts. It’s working months ahead, preparing that car for any given weekend. Then it’s the communication leading into the race. Then it’s communication through Friday, through qualifying, through Saturday’s practice sessions, and collectively putting that all together for Sunday. You have to knock on that door week in and week out. You have to build that notebook so you can start the playoffs and run in the top-five every single week. That will put you at the end.”
Are you and the No. 14 WIX Filters team at that level?
“We’re starting to do that. We’re starting that notebook that we all talk about. It’s finally starting to resonate to where you can look at it. Like, I can go back and look at last year. All right, I remember that. We’re not going to do that. We’ll be better there. We have to learn from that mistake, so on and so forth. Those are the things we’re starting to pick up on.”
Are you optimistic?
“This No. 14 WIX Filters team is getting better. The thing I love the most about the season is we start going back to these races for the second time in the playoffs. That notebook is even bigger for us because our cars have been unloading fast. Now, it’s just fine-tuning. It’s not that massive, overall change of setups you have to do going into one of those playoff races.”
How helpful is to have a partner in WIX Filters that also contributes to the performance of your Ford Fusions?
“We’ve been bringing some fast hot rods to the racetrack each weekend and I know that WIX Filters has played an important role in that. In this sport, every detail matters, and a lot can be gained by having the best filters on our racecars. Efficiency equals horsepower, and you can never have enough horsepower.”