No. 14 Mobil 1 Annual Protection Ford driver Clint Bowyer wants to win the Daytona 500 someday, and a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title would cap a perfect career.
A few more trophies from historic racetracks where he hasn’t won like Indianapolis, Bristol and Darlington, just to name a few, would also be pretty cool to add to the trophy case at home. But the Emporia, Kansas native admits deep down he wants to win one trophy in particular and he’ll get his chance to do just that Saturday night when the Cup Series races at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
“Kansas Speedway this weekend in Kansas, I finally get to go home and I can’t wait to get there,” Bowyer said. “Hopefully, Saturday night I can get my first win at home. That would be huge. We’d have a heck of a party. Everyone would be invited.”
The Kansas dirt is where Bowyer came from. He began racing motocross in 1985, collecting more than 200 wins and several championships. After moving from motorcycles to cars, Bowyer gained a reputation for success at Lakeside and I-70 Speedways in Kansas City. Scott Traylor and some local Kansas City businessmen built and put Bowyer in an ARCA car at Nashville (Tenn.) Speedway in August 2003, and Bowyer led 47 laps before finishing second. He got a call from NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Childress to come south and the rest, they say, is history.
Bowyer’s current home is in North Carolina, but he hasn’t turned his back on Kansas, especially the 25,000 residents of Emporia. He returns often to deer hunt, visit friends or just be part of the community. In March 2013, he bought the Clint Bowyer Autoplex car dealership on U.S. Highway 50, where he once worked as a lot attendant, dent specialist and detailer.
Across the street sits the Clint Bowyer Community Building, constructed in 2012 thanks to a $1.5 million donation from his foundation. Inside are 25 new computers at the public library. There is a scoreboard at the aquatic center, a video camera at the auditorium, shoes for the Big Brothers-Big Sisters program, backpacks for kids, Christmas trees for needy families. And, in nearby towns, playground equipment and the reconstruction of a tornado-ravaged community center – all of it and more paid for by Bowyer’s foundation, or out of the driver’s own pocket.
Bowyer even brought country music star Blake Shelton to Emporia for a concert. Emporia appreciates its native son, having renamed the street on which the family towing business resides as “Hon. Clint Bowyer Boulevard.” He’s even recreated a little bit of Kansas at his 650-acre farm near Mocksville, North Carolina. It’s everything one would expect at a Bowyer farm: vintage cars, trucks, racecars, cows, eagles, donkeys and goats.
“In Kansas, you might have two trees and the rest pastures but, in North Carolina, everything is woods, so you can’t see anything,” Bowyer said. “When I drove down the long driveway for the first time, you could see everything – the pasture, the lakes. This was the Promised Land for me. There’s literally something to do from sunup to sundown.”
He’ll be all Kansas this weekend. He and wife Lorra, along with their toddler Cash and infant Presley, packed up the motorhome Clark Griswold-style Sunday night and drove from Talladega, Alabama to Memphis, Tennessee to visit the zoo, then on to Kansas, where he’ll be in high demand in front of the home folks.
Over the years, Bowyer has enjoyed some success at Kansas Speedway, posting two top-five finishes and five top-10s with 48 laps led in 17 starts. But, he’s never returned home with a race team like Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) that will bring a Ford Fusion powered by a Roush-Yates engine to the Jayhawk State.
The No. 14 Ford team led by Mike Bugarewicz has delivered fast cars this season, combining with Bowyer to climb to ninth place in the standings despite just their first season together. Last Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Bowyer led 10 laps, his first of the season, on his way to a 14th-place finish dampened by a late pit stop for tire damage. Bowyer has finished in the top-15 in all races in 2017 except the season-opening Daytona 500, where a midrace accident ruined his day.
The North Carolina writer Thomas Wolfe in 1940 wrote the classic novel “You Can’t Go Home Again.” Clint Bowyer hopes to prove Wolfe wrong this weekend in Kansas.
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1 Annual Protection Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What is the secret to doing well at Kansas Speedway?
“The secret is to just have a fast hot rod. It has to unload off the track fast. It’s an incredible racetrack with a lot of grip since the repave. Qualifying, track position and everything that leads up to that race are going to be really important. The key word you’ll hear this weekend will be grip. All of us will be looking for grip in places other than just the bottom of the track.”