Few NASCAR drivers must live up to a number and heritage like Clint Bowyer.
Nothing will exemplify that better than Sunday night’s running of the 70th Southern 500 at historic Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, when Bowyer’s No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Ford will carry a nearly identical paint scheme to his car owner and 2020 Hall of Fame selection Tony Stewart’s 2011 championship-winning car at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
The scheme is in keeping with “The Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR,” during which the industry honors the sport’s history. Nearly all the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams will sport throwback paint schemes in the Southern 500.
“This is such a cool deal, honoring Tony and his victory in what was probably the most exciting championship in NASCAR history,” Bowyer said, referring to the 2011 Stewart vs. Carl Edwards championship battle that ended in a points deadlock and was determined via tiebreaker. “Who can ever forget what Tony and Carl did in the playoffs that year? I hope this brings back good memories for Tony, the fans and everyone in the sport.”
In 2017, Bowyer inherited the steering wheel of the No. 14 from three-time-champion Stewart, who retired from NASCAR racing at the end of the 2016 season after a 49-win Cup Series career and hundreds of victories in many other forms of racing. Since starting SHR with co-owner Gene Haas in 2009, Stewart piloted a car carrying the No. 14 to victory lane 16 times – the most of any driver in the Cup Series.
The No. 14 had its own legacy in motorsports before Stewart.
His boyhood hero A.J. Foyt made the number legendary in open-wheel racing. Foyt’s driving career included four Indianapolis 500 wins among his hundreds of open-wheel victories, plus checkered flags in NASCAR’s Daytona 500 and sportscar racing’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. For the record, Foyt also drove the No. 14 in 42 NASCAR races, but with that number he was winless with just a single top-five finish.
Stewart lived up to his hero’s standards when he took over the No. 14. Now it’s Bowyer’s turn. In his 96 races in the No. 14 so far, Bowyer has posted two victories, 20 top-five finishes and 39 top-10s.
“Between Tony and A.J., those are about the biggest shoes anyone will ever have to fill,” Bowyer said. “We are doing our best to make Tony proud as both the car owner as well as the driver of the No. 14.”
Bowyer’s SHR teammates Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez will also honor Stewart’s 2002 and 2005 championship titles with special paint schemes on their cars this weekend.
The No. 14 has appeared in 1,224 Cup Series races and notched 44 wins. In addition to Stewart’s 16 victories, Fonty Flock won 14 races in the No. 14, including the first for the number at Occoneechee Speedway in Hillsborough, North Carolina in April 1951. Four other drivers have scored wins in the No. 14: Jim Paschal with seven, Herschel McGriff with four, Bowyer’s two, and Bobby Allison with one.
Bowyer relishes his turn with the famous number and wants to climb higher on that list. He arrives at Darlington after enjoying the final off weekend of the 2019 season when he and his family of four enjoyed a weekend at their farm in Mocksville, North Carolina.
At the last Cup Series race two weekends ago, Bowyer finished seventh at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. He needs a good run at Darlington to earn a playoff position. Bowyer is 17th in the standings, just two points behind Suarez, who holds the 16th and final playoff spot. Only Darlington and the Sept. 8 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway remain on the schedule before the playoffs begin Sept. 15 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“We know how important these next two races are,” Bowyer said. “Everyone in the sport knows and everyone will be watching. We know if we run like we are capable of running, we will be fine. Now, we just have to go out and do it this weekend at Darlington and next weekend at Indy.”
Bowyer’s No. 14 will carry the decals of Rush Truck Centers and Mobil 1 this weekend in Darlington.
Rush Truck Centers has been the primary partner on the No. 14 team since Bowyer arrived at SHR in 2017, and has been with the organization since 2010. The Texas-based company has used Bowyer and the team to appeal to NASCAR fans as one way to recruit the technicians it needs to operate the largest network of commercial truck and bus dealerships in the country, with locations in 22 states.
According to Rush Truck Centers, the trucking industry is expected to need 200,000 diesel technicians over the next 10 years to keep up with maintenance demands. Rush Truck Centers wants to make NASCAR fans aware of these opportunities and knows that, with Bowyer’s background, he is the right guy to help get the message out.
In its 17th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series. It also provides primary sponsorships on Bowyer’s and Kevin Harvick’s Mustangs at SHR during various Cup Series weekends throughout the year. The Mobil 1 brand also serves as an associate sponsor for all four SHR drivers at all other races. Since 2011, ExxonMobil has been providing lubricant technology support to the SHR team, which helped drivers Stewart and Harvick earn series championships for SHR in 2011 and 2014.
“Both of those companies supported our plans to honor Tony this weekend and we’re extremely grateful to both Rush Truck Centers and Mobil 1,” Bowyer said. “I hope, by the end of the night at Darlington, we give them and all of our fans of the No. 14 something to cheer about.”
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What do you think of Darlington?
“Darlington is not good to me. I don’t know what I do wrong there. I’ve always run well there, been up front and everything is going fine, (but) it’s one of those tracks where you get down to the end and I can’t finish the damn thing. We’ve got to be able to figure that out because I really do enjoy the challenge of Darlington. That is an extremely difficult track to get around. It’s an animal. Trying to stay out of the wall, that’s obviously first and foremost, but being able to navigate traffic because you’re always in it. Even if you’re the leader, you’re in traffic. It’s a bear, but a lot of fun.”
Is Darlington fun for drivers and fans?
“I always look forward to going there. I love that old-school aspect of the fans – as big as the racetrack is, the infield seems extremely tight. We take the dog out at night to watch people take in our racing, and that’s one of my favorite things to do is cruise around and see how people take our sport and enjoy our sport in different ways. It’s all aspects. Some people enjoy family. Some people, they’re college buddies. They’ve got a new college crowd down there in (turns) one and two that’s super-killer for all those guys throwing a big party for them, and having a large time as their school is getting back going. But it’s always been a special race and a challenging race and a lot of fun to go down there, as well.”
What do you think of the older cars racing at Darlington?
“I always thought it would be neat, if you could, to be able to put those cars back on the track and have us be able to race them – or even today’s technology, just make the rules mandate those old cars and see. The crazy thing is, you can’t unlearn the evolution of racing and everything that we’ve learned over the years. These engineers and guys, they could make those guys so much faster than they were back then, but it’s not fair. It’s not fair to the guys back then. They didn’t have the tools and simulation and all the things they have today, so I can tell you because of those cars that racing is where it is. Those guys taught these kids and these guys who are building chassis and making these cars go fast today learned from those guys, and they learn pretty fast. But it would be cool to be able to go back and put those old jalopies back on the track and see what would happen. The only thing I never figured out about them is how hot those guys looked and everything else, and every time we take the windows out of our cars, it’s like putting air conditioning in them. I can’t tell you how much cooler my car was in Watkins Glen than any other racetrack. Simply taking out the right-side window makes a huge difference, so those cars even had wing windows in them, for crying out loud. I need a wing window.”