Clint Bowyer jokes about his love-hate relationship with Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, where the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series holds its sixth race of the 2018 season Sunday. Sometimes he really likes the flat, half-mile, paperclip-shaped track in Southern Virginia and, at other times, not so much.
Right now, Bowyer is in love with Martinsville. That’s probably because he battled for victory last October before finishing third. In last year’s spring race, Bowyer drove the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) Ford to a seventh-place finish.
But, he hasn’t always been a fan of the place.
“When I first raced there, I was terrible, I hated it – every aspect of it,” Bowyer said with a laugh. “Now, we feel pretty good about our Martinsville program. We had two pretty good runs last year and we’re pretty pumped about going there this weekend. We aren’t going to be happy until we bring home a grandfather clock.”
Bowyer has come close at Martinsville, but he’s yet to add a clock to his trophy case. He owns five top-five finishes and 14 top-10s and has led 356 laps on Martinsville’s concrete surface. He led 154 laps during the fall 2012 race amid a string of five consecutive top-10s there.
Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Bowyer ran in the top-10 most of the race until a tire problem in the final laps left him with an 11th-place finish. Bowyer is ninth in points heading to the Cup Series’ first short-track race of the season. SHR arrives at Martinsville on a historic roll with all four drivers in the top-11 in the standings.
Martinsville is a historically good track for the Kannapolis, North Carolina-based organization. SHR owns three victories – Ryan Newman in April 2012, Tony Stewart in October 2011 and Kurt Busch in March 2014 – eight top-five finishes and 20 top-10s in 54 starts at Martinsville, and SHR cars have led 504 laps there.
While he’s feeling good heading into this weekend, Bowyer knows there’s always the fickle nature of Martinsville that could turn him back toward not liking the place. But, he said that’s part of the track’s allure to fans and television viewers and a welcome relief from the high-speed, aerodynamic-dependent tracks the series has visited thus far in 2018.
“This type of racing is what put this sport on the map, and it’s been a while since we’ve been that, and it’s a breath of fresh air to get back to a short track where it can breed some of that and put on a show for the fans,” said Bowyer, who makes his 439th career start Sunday. “I know I was entertained by the racing last year and I expect we’ll see the same thing again this weekend.”
Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford will sport a bit of a different look at Martinsville as Haas Automation, the largest CNC (computer numerically controlled) machine-tool builder in North America, will highlight Demo Day 2018 that will be held May 9 at local Haas Factory Outlets (HFOs) nationwide.
The annual event provides HFOs an opportunity to feature the latest CNC machines, innovations, and technology from Haas Automation. Showcased will be machine-cutting demonstrations and educational seminars to explain how the latest Haas machines and options can help make current Haas users, potential customers, and anyone in the manufacturing industry learn how the latest Haas machines can help a business be more productive, efficient, and profitable.
The 2018 Demo Day celebrates the 30th anniversary of Haas Automation’s very first vertical machining center – the industry-leading VF-1. The “V” in the model name stands for vertical – an industry-standard designation for a vertical mill – and company founder Gene Haas added “F1” to unofficially designate it as the company’s “Very First One.”
Introduced in 1988 in Chicago, the Haas VF-1 established an industry milestone by being the very first American-built vertical machining center to sell for less than $50,000, an unheard-of price at that time. With a published price of $49,900 – another industry first – the Haas VF-1 quickly became the industry benchmark for affordable CNC technology.
Today, the Haas VF-1 still sells for less than $50,000 – in fact, it’s only $46,995 – and Haas Automation is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of CNC machine tools, with an extensive lineup of more than 100 high-value, high-performance products.
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are your thoughts on Martinsville?
“I’ve run really well at Martinsville and there have been several times when I thought we were the fastest car, especially in 2012 and 2013. I look forward to it every year and it’s one track I feel like I can win at, especially if the equipment is underneath me and we make good calls and I make good decisions and take care of the car on the racetrack. I want to bring one of those clocks home. I love going to Martinsville. It’s a great racetrack with a lot of history. Martinsville has been hosting races for half a century and all the greats have raced there over the years. It really is a throwback in a lot of ways. It’s a flat short track like most of us grew up racing on. It’s tight, flat and fenders definitely get used. It always puts on an exciting show for the fans and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. As a fan of the sport, I don’t know how you can’t like Martinsville. And, in a lot of ways, it’s almost turned into the new go-to track for action and excitement. It doesn’t have the high banks like Bristol, but the racing, bumping, banging and all the fun stuff the fans look for has been every bit as good as anywhere we’ve gone the past few years.”
Martinsville seems to be the most difficult track for drivers to figure out. Why is that?
“It’s a short track, but it’s not like any other short track you’ve ever been to. It goes against everything your tendencies tell you to do. You have to back the corner up and let the car roll way around the corner before you get back on the gas. Your tendencies are to get in the corner as deep as you can and get back on the throttle as fast as possible. Those are two things that are catastrophic there, so you’ve got to discipline yourself and stay disciplined throughout the race.”
Is there anything you would change about Martinsville?
“Why we don’t race there at night is beyond me. We should definitely utilize those lights for something other than a green-white-checkered finish like we had last year. It was pretty damned cool under the lights last fall.”