Clint Bowyer would like nothing better than to hoist the winner’s trophy in victory lane Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. After narrowly missing the NASCAR playoffs, the 38-year-old Emporia, Kansas native has made winning a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race a priority in the final three races of the 2017 season.
Texas is as good a place as any for Bowyer to return to the winner’s circle, but the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver isn’t going into battle alone Sunday.
NASCAR in the 21st Century is as much a team sport as any in the stick-and-ball arena. The driver is at the tip of the spear that includes a race team, engine builder, manufacturer, corporate partners and other entities. Without that support, getting to victory lane would be near impossible.
Bowyer said he thinks fans sometimes miss the effort it takes to field a successful Cup series entry. He said it’s the work done in the race shop that often decides races. Even before his No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil Delvac 1 Ford Fusion unloads Friday in Texas, his crew will have figured out what it will take to go fast.
“These race teams are so good using their experience, technology and tools that it is just incredible to see them go through a race weekend,” Bowyer said. “Whether it’s new pavement or old pavement, they can find that optimal grip load in the car and ultimately make the thing fast.”
“That is the crazy thing – how close they can get these cars to 100 percent,” he added. “Mechanical grip is what I am talking about. Aero grip and things like that are some things that you can or can’t adjust but, at the end of the day, all the teams in this garage at this level are pretty good at getting this thing close to 100 percent.”
If all those factors click, then Bowyer will be a factor on Sunday. He’s enjoyed success at the 1.5-mile Texas oval posting three top-five finishes and 10 top-10s in 24 races. In 2006, Bowyer won a Camping World Truck Series race at Texas. Bowyer started third in April at Texas and raced as high as fourth in the final stage before finishing 11th. “Like a lot of folks, we just couldn’t get the handling right,” he said that night.
Bowyer and the rest of the field will be a bit more familiar with the Texas track this weekend. Sunday marks the second Cup Series race on the reconfigured Texas track. Before the April race, the track and pit lane underwent a complete repave while turns one and two were re-profiled, altering the configuration of the oval.
He visits Texas a week after a third-place finish at the .526-mile Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Bowyer started fifth at the short track and rallied to third after dropping as far back as 26th. It was a welcome finish for Bowyer, who’s hoping he’s ended a recent run of back luck. Accidents by other drivers collected Bowyer at Charlotte, Talladega and Kansas, ruining his chances for a good finish.
Bowyer, who is in his first season with SHR after replacing three-time champion Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Ford led by crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, has posted three second-place finishes and two third-place finishes. The team narrowly missed earning one of 16 berths in NASCAR’s playoffs – despite Bowyer’s average finish of 15.0 that is ninth-best of all full-time drivers this season.
If Bowyer can keep the Martinsville momentum going and his crew is as adept at finding the optimum setup as Bowyer describes, then it could be quite an exciting, happy and probably quite crowded victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway late Sunday afternoon in the Lone Star State.
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil Delvac 1Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are your thoughts on Texas?
“Texas is one of those big, fast, high-banked tracks. You just have to go. We’ve been close there a number of times over the years. At Texas, it’s all about having the sheer speed. On those 1.5-mile tracks, you have to have a car that unloads fast. You can be a little bit tight or a little bit loose but, if that car isn’t making grip, making downforce and having the speed on the racetrack, then you are going to struggle. Unloading a fast hot rod right off the truck is going to be so important because you are going to have to qualify well and have that track position to be a contender.”