Clint Bowyer is as big of a racing fan as anyone sitting in the grandstands or watching on television. The Emporia, Kansas native races in NASCAR, runs his own Dirt Late Model team, and has his motorhome television dialed into racing most of the time. He can’t wait for Sunday.
Like everyone else, he will tune in early Sunday morning when Formula One takes the green flag in Monaco, followed by the Indianapolis 500 at noon. A few hours later, he’ll leave the couch to put on his Haas Automation Ford uniform and climb in his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) No. 14 Ford.
Bowyer and 39 other Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will battle for 600 miles Sunday night in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
“Sunday is just a hell of a day of racing,” Bowyer said with a laugh. “You have one of the coolest races in Formula One in Monte Carlo, and then it’s the Indianapolis 500 – it’s one of their coolest races. Actually, no, it is their coolest race. And then the 600’s one of ours. I mean, it’s just a – It’s a hell of a day of racing.”
Bowyer has a rooting interest Sunday morning in Monaco. Haas F1 Team is owned by SHR co-owner Gene Haas and fields cars for Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.
“I’ve always been a fan of F1 and admired what they do, but now that the boss has cars in it and is competing in it, you follow and pull for those guys even that much more,” Bowyer said.
After the Formula One race, Bowyer will watch the Indianapolis 500 in his motorcoach from the infield in Charlotte.
“Having the Indy 500 leading up to our 600 is awesome for a race fan and, hey, I’m a race fan,” he said. “Who’s not, right? I want to watch that race, and do. The last few years have been phenomenal.”
Normally, he’ll begin his sponsor and media obligations for the Cup Series race during the closing laps of the Indy 500, but he’ll keep a close eye on the ending.
“I remember I was with one of the sponsors, doing a hospitality deal already, and looking over peoples’ shoulders at the TV behind me, trying to focus on what I’m supposed to be talking about, and selling the 600, how we’re going to run there,” Bowyer said. “And, oh, by the way, trying to see who’s going to win the Indy 500.”
Bowyer is in his first season driving for SHR replacing three-time champion Tony Stewart, who retired from NASCAR at the end of the 2016 season. Stewart, who raced in five Indy 500s, plans to attend Indy on Sunday, then arrive in Charlotte before the start of the 600 race.
Make no mistake – by the time the green flag drops in Charlotte for NASCAR’s longest race of the season, Bowyer will be all business. He won at Charlotte in October 2012 and owns two top-five finishes and five top-10s and has led 119 laps. Last week in the NASCAR All-Star Race, Bowyer finished 13th after winning Stage 1 in the NASCAR Monster Energy Open. It marked the third time in four seasons Bowyer advanced from the Open to the All-Star Race.
Last week’s racing was about speed over a short distance. Sunday’s race is the longest the drivers will race all season. Bowyer said the strain of the extra distance is as much mental as physical.
“It just depends on how your ole’ hot rod is, how your night’s going,” he said. “The Coca-Cola 600 can be one of those deals where you feel like you could’ve gone another three or four hours, or it’s one of those where it’s like, ‘My God, is this thing ever going to end?’ You hope it’s the way I was describing before. You hope it’s, ‘This is easy,’ and wish it’d lasted a couple more hours.”
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are your thoughts on the 600?
“I think you saw from the All-Star Race that track position is going to be key. But we will have longer green-flag runs Sunday and handling will come into play. We had a really good car last week. If we could have gotten out front in the All-Star Race like we did in the Open, then we would have been tough to handle.”
Do you have any desire to compete in the Indianapolis 500?
“No. No, I don’t. Open wheels just doesn’t make much sense to me. No. They fly. I don’t like that. Flying’s just for – flying is for airplanes.”