There couldn’t be a better time for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) to scratch off winning at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway from its to-do list than Sunday at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 1000Bulbs.com 500 – the second of three Round of 12 races in the Cup Series playoffs .
The Kannapolis, North-Carolina-based team co-owned by Tony Stewart and Gene Haas and has recorded 49 victories and 42 poles since its inception in 2009. It’s celebrating its 10th anniversary season by turning in its best season-long performance to date. SHR’s Fords have won 10 of 30 Cup Series points races in 2018, plus the non-points NASCAR All-Star Race. All four SHR drivers qualified for the playoffs and advanced to the Round of 12.
Despite SHR’s race wins, two championships and a dominant season in 2018, there’s still one item left that has eluded the organization – victory at Talladega. SHR owns four top-five finishes and 17 top-10s in 58 starts at the 2.66-mile superspeedway, making it and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta the only two active Cup Series tracks where SHR has not earned a victory.
That could change Sunday, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Cummins/Rush Truck Centers Ford Fusion, hopes he’s the driver to do it.
“Heck yeah, I’d like to be the guy who wins (SHR’s) first race at Talladega,” said Bowyer, who already owns two Talladega Cup Series victories, plus six top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 25 starts there. “Not only would it be a great win for SHR, it would move the winner on to the Round of 8, and that would make next week’s race at Kansas a lot easier.”
Bowyer needs the victory because he arrives at Talladega after what appeared to be a top-five run at Dover (Del.) International Speedway Sunday in the first of three Round of 12 races turned into a 35th-place finish after mechanical issues and an accident ended his race early. The finish dropped him to 10th in points and 10 points behind the eighth and final transfer spot with two races remaining in the round.
Bowyer knows that for him or SHR teammates Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch or Aric Almirola to win at Talladega, a lot of things will have to go right. His Talladega race in April ended with 22 laps remaining when he was collected in a multicar accident while running 12th.
“More than any other place we go, you have to be focused at Talladega because its 500 miles of mind games,” Bowyer said. “It’s all about making good, quick, decisions by all of the team – the guys in the pits, my spotter and me in the racecar. If we can do that, we will be in a great position to get another Talladega win and hopefully advance in the NASCAR playoffs.”
New SHR partner Cummins makes its first appearance as the primary paint scheme on the No. 14 Ford Fusion Sunday. The Columbus, Indiana-based company is no stranger to victory lane with its racing lineage dating back to the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911, when company founder Clessie Cummins was on the pit crew of the race-winning Marmon Wasp of driver Ray Harroun. Since its founding in 1919, the company now employs approximately 58,600 people and serves customers in about 190 countries and territories through a network of some 500 company-owned and independent distributor locations and approximately 7,500 dealer locations.
While Cummins is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions, it is best known for its diesel truck engines. At Talladega, Cummins will share space on the No. 14 with Rush Truck Centers, the nation’s largest provider of premium products and services for the commercial vehicle market, with the largest truck inventory in North America.
Rush Truck Centers 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 expecting a need for 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.
Rush Truck Centers and Cummins are accustomed to working with each other. When a Cummins customer is in need of maintenance at a Rush Truck Centers location, RushCare Service Connect automatically provides information to Cummins, expediting and facilitating Cummins support and engagement when necessary. All correspondence is captured and can be viewed on the Service Connect portal, allowing customers and service advisors to see the entire maintenance history associated with any vehicle in the system.
Rush Truck Centers has integrated its RushCare Telematics Solution and its Service Connect platform with Cummins Connected Diagnostics to improve its service program, making maintenance decisions and service tracking easier for shared customers.
Cummins and Rush Truck Centers also help SHR get its racecars to the track each weekend. SHR’s Peterbilt Model 389 haulers are equipped with Cummins engines and RushCare Telematics and supported by the RushCare team, which monitors and reports critical fault codes, vehicle performance and driver habits. This ensures the haulers remain in peak condition while traveling thousands of miles from race to race each season.
Bowyer would like to take SHR, Cummins and Rush Truck Centers to victory lane, but he’d really like to do it for himself and his No. 14 team.
“We got ourselves in a hole right now, points-wise, but we’ve been there before and know what we have to do,” he said. “We’ll go to Talladega and do our best to get some stage points and win the race.”
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Cummins/Rush Truck Centers Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What is it like to be inside the car during a race at Talladega?
“There’s so much going on inside the car, whether you’re listening to the spotter, or you’re looking at – as you’re listening to him, you’re following along to – that story in the mirror, right? You’re living it through the windshield. I mean, there are so many things that are going on, you just – you flat out – don’t take it all in. I mean, your brain is registering so many things that, at the end of the race, you don’t even remember half of it.”
Is it difficult to hold back at Talladega?
“You get a little bit excited and antsy to get up into the pack and, even with 50, 60 laps to go you’re like, ‘How am I going to get up there?’ They get three-wide and there’s just literally no place to go. At Talladega, you can go four-wide, and I’ve seen when it goes five-wide you get into a wreck. We see that quite a bit there – somebody attempting it – and that’s when it gets this place exciting. Looking forward to hopefully getting to the end and, more importantly, getting a win.”
What is the key to success?
“Attitude is a big part of this, but it goes toward being a student while you’re out there, learning as much as you can. That’s the tricky thing about these situations at these racetracks.”