Playoff time is finally here and it couldn’t come soon enough for No. 14 One Cure Ford Fusion driver Clint Bowyer.
The first round of NASCAR’s 10-race, 16-driver playoffs begin this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. For Bowyer, who’s making his first playoff appearance since 2015, it’s the moment he’s been waiting for since joining Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in 2017.
“We have such a long season with so many races that it’s easy to get in a routine, especially after you get a win and you know you are in the playoffs,” said Bowyer, who finished second in the playoffs once and in the top-five three times during his career. “But, there’s nothing routine about what starts this weekend in Las Vegas. The pay window is open and it’s time we start racing for a championship. It’s why we are here and why I joined this organization.”
Bowyer begins the playoffs fifth in the reset standings with 2,015 points thanks to a seventh-place finish in the final regular-season standings, a stage victory Monday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, plus victories at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in March and a June victory at Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn. To advance to Round 2 of the playoffs, Bowyer needs to remain in the top-12 in points through Round 1. That makes running well Sunday at Las Vegas, Sept. 22 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, and Sept. 30 on the new road course at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway imperative to a chance for the title.
“I’ve always thought the first round is the toughest,” he said. “You have to be ready to go right out of the box. You can’t have any mistakes. You sure as heck can’t afford to get behind.”
Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford will carry the green-and-white colors of One Cure this weekend in Las Vegas. One Cure is a project led by the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University. The One Cure program is founded on the principle that cancer affects all creatures and that treatment breakthroughs come through collaboration between scientists and doctors working with people and animals. This approach is known as comparative oncology and it is the guiding concept of One Cure and the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State. The center works to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in pets, and teams with the human medical field to translate research findings that will help people with cancer.
The center, located in the university’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, sees more than 1,500 new animal cancer patients every year, with approximately 130 patients enrolling in carefully monitored clinical trials specific to their cancer type. The canine and feline patients are helping pioneer cancer research, moving cutting-edge treatments out of the laboratory and into clinical practice, ultimately providing hope to the next generation of animal and human cancer patients.
“There isn’t much difference between dogs and humans when it comes to cancer,” Bowyer said. “What they get, we get. We’re both in the same environment, drink the same water and react the same way. So, One Cure is researching cancer in dogs and other pets not only to treat them, but to apply that research in the hopes it will lead to curing cancer in humans, as well.”
SHR first featured the One Cure initiative on its No. 10 Ford in 2017. This year, it has appeared on Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford in March at Las Vegas and in June at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway with the goal of encouraging race fans to visit www.OneCure.com, where they can learn about the research and offer financial support.
Bowyer hopes he can create even more attention for One Cure Sunday at the fast, 1.5-mile Las Vegas oval. It marks his 13th start at Las Vegas, where he owns a top-five finish and four top-10s in 13 races. He arrives in in Las Vegas after leading a race-high 37 laps, winning Stage 1 and finishing fifth Monday at Indianapolis.
It’s been a solid regular season for Bowyer in 2018. He’s earned two victories, seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10s. He and his SHR teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch have combined for 10 victories and comprise three of the top six positions in the playoffs.
“All that doesn’t matter anymore,” Bowyer said. “The next 10 races will define everyone’s season.”
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 One Cure Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Can you and the No. 14 team compete with the dominant tier of drivers Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., in the playoffs?
“You have to elevate your game and rise to their capabilities and expectations. Those guys, not only do they have the wins, they are dominant cars that have led a lot of laps when they get those wins and all the stage points and all that stuff. You have to be able to do that more consistently. On our team, that is what we have to do. We have touched on that and made some mistakes and know we have to get those mistakes behind us to capitalize on every possible situation. Every stage. Every lap. That is what we have to do better. We have to smooth out the highs and lows. You have to stay on top of the mountain. You can’t fall off the damn mountain. That’s what it boils down to.”