The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series makes the third and final stop on its three-race West Coast swing Sunday when the green flag drops on the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer has made the most of the opening four races of the 2017 season, climbing to a 13th-place tie in the standings.
Sunday marks Bowyer’s first appearance driving his No. 14 Ford carrying the decals of Rush Truck Centers. The Texas-based company is using its partnership with SHR and Bowyer to reach out 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 21 states.
Bowyer, who grew up working for his father Chris “Pops” Bowyer’s tow-truck business in Emporia, Kansas, appreciates the trucking industry as much as any driver in the sport.
“Rush Truck Centers keeps SHR’s trucks and transporters in great condition and you could argue those are the most important parts of our race team, and their technology allows us to keep up to date on maintenance with just a click of the computer,” he said. “Without them, our cars never get to the racetrack. The employees of Rush Truck Centers are as detail-oriented as we are, and their technicians are the heartbeat of their dealerships. They play a critical role in the success of our race team.”
According to Rush Truck Centers, experienced truck technicians have never been more vital. The American Trucking Association estimates the need for an additional 200,000 technical professionals to be developed over the next 10 years to meet service maintenance demands industry-wide. Concurrently, it is expected that 40 to 50 percent of truck technicians will retire before 2030.
Rush Truck Centers wants to make NASCAR fans aware of these opportunities. Bowyer plans to help by continuing his string of good performances that have kicked off his first year at SHR as three-time champion Tony Stewart’s replacement in the No. 14 Ford.
Sunday is Bowyer’s 402nd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and 17th career Cup Series start at Fontana. He owns two top-five finishes and seven top-10s and has led 47 laps. His SHR team owns two victories at the track, scored by Stewart in March 2012 and October 2010. Last weekend at Phoenix, Bowyer raced from 17th to 13th in overtime, marking his third consecutive top-13 finish in 2017.
Bowyer said he expects the No. 14’s performances to improve as the 2017 season continues.
“I don’t think you have seen our best, yet, but we are tied for 13th in points,” Bowyer said. “We are still getting to know each other and these cars. I’ve been very impressed with the SHR guys. We’ve had some moments this year when we weren’t very good, but we keep working on the car and, at the end of the day, we end up with a pretty good finish.”
Bowyer said the end of the West Coast swing provides a significant milestone for the Cup Series teams. He said they are starting to understand their strengths and weaknesses after races on the Daytona restrictor-plate track, 1.5-mile ovals at Atlanta and Las Vegas, the flat mile at Phoenix, and now Fontana’s 2-mile track.
The trip has also been a lot of fun. Bowyer returned to North Carolina for a few days after Las Vegas but plans to go snowmobiling in Montana this week before flying to California Thursday.
“I love the West Coast. I think it’s beautiful out there,” he said. “Some of the prettiest land that we have is out West. I think Vegas does not suck. Phoenix is fun. California is fun. I’ve got a lot of friends in California. The hardest part about all those races is that, logistically, I can’t be gone for three or four weeks. I’ve got to come home and make sure my wife isn’t gonna leave me (laughs). You can’t stay out here having fun and racing like that, and keep a family around.”
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What will it mean to you when you win again?
“Let’s face it, you’re not given anything in this series. This is extremely competitive and a very challenging, very difficult situation to win these races. You’re only as good as the people around you and everybody at Stewart-Haas – Tony and Gene – have surrounded me with great people starting with Buga (Mike Bugarewicz) my crew chief, to my teammates to the sponsors. Everything at Stewart-Haas is lined up to win races, and we’re all in to do so after switching to Fords this year. No other manufacturer has pushed harder to have success in motorsports this year than Ford has. It’s not only a push in NASCAR, it’s a push all over motorsports, so you’ve got to associate yourself with those good people who are all-in for winning races and that gives you confidence that you can go out and win races.”
Will it be special?
“You’re damn right it will be and I’ll embrace it, but it’s just like the last time I won a race – you head to the next race wanting to win that one. Success only makes you hungrier for more success and it’s been a while but, more importantly, I want to get established as a consistent frontrunner, not a sporadic ‘show-up and run good here and be bad the next week.’ We’ve got to get consistent week-in and week-out and perfect that and keep perfecting it, and then you’ll win races. My son is two and a half years old now and I want to be able for him to see me in victory lane and for him to be in victory lane and, when it’s all said and done, you look over when you’re 50-some years old that there’s a picture of your whole family in victory lane. That’s what I race for.”