Moments after Clint Bowyer earned his ninth career victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last month, he ran across the front stretch, climbed the stairs and jumped into the stands to share one or two Busch beers with the Southern Virginia crowd.
It wasn’t just a Martinsville thing for Bowyer. He’ll do it anywhere he wins, especially at short tracks like Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Richmond (Va.) Raceway, where he’s energized because the “the crowd is so close,” he says.
God forbid if the Emporia, Kansas native ever won at his home track of Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Bowyer is a race fan at heart with championship driving ability.
“The fans are a big part of our sport and it’s fun to celebrate with them like we did in Martinsville,” Bowyer said. “A lot of them are as happy for you as you are for yourself. It’s just fun. Did you see those fans at Bristol last week who stayed ’til Monday and watched us when it was raining and sleeting? That’s dedication.”
This weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visits Richmond, where Bowyer and Ford will team up to get the word out about Ford’s Hall of Fans program to honor NASCAR’s most ardent supporters. All season long, Ford will be searching for the most passionate NASCAR fans.
Bowyer knows the secret to becoming recognized as a loyal and worthy fan.
“You need to tell Ford why you love NASCAR,” he said. “What sets you apart from other NASCAR fans? I’ve seen a lot of crazy fans over the years who could qualify for the Hall of Fans. I hope all those folks enter.”
Fans can go to www.nascar.com/fordand upload either a video explaining why they are the greatest NASCAR fan or a photo of themselves with an accompanying caption explaining why they are the greatest NASCAR fan. Six finalists, chosen by drivers and fans, will head to Miami during Ford Championship Weekend.
Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford Fusion will carry the Hall of Fans paint scheme in Saturday night’s Richmond race and he hopes he’ll be celebrating with the fans afterward. If history is any indication, he has a real chance to get career victory number 10 at the .75-mile oval. Two of Bowyer’s nine career victories came at Richmond – in September 2015 and May 2008. He’s also notched four top-five finishes and has led 348 laps there.
“It’s just a perfect racetrack,” he said. “It’s always been that way. Ever since I started in the Xfinity Series with Richard (Childress), it’s always fit my driving style. It’s that short track and I’ve always said that I wish we had four or five of these all across the country. They certainly hit the mark when they were making Richmond.
“I have a lot of fun there – prerace and everything else. The fan base there has always been good. It’s a good vibe and a good feel for a racetrack being that it kind of reminds you of pulling into the old fairgrounds at a dirt track. There are houses across the street and this is what short-track racing is all about right here.”
It’s been a short week for Bowyer and the rest of the Cup Series competitors after rain at Bristol pushed Sunday’s race to Monday afternoon. Bowyer finished eighth Monday amid the rain and sleet on the .533-mile track situated near the Tennessee-Virginia state line. It marked the sixth time in eight races that Bowyer has finished in the top-11. The No. 14 team led by crew chief Mike Bugarewicz is now fourth in points going to one of Bowyer’s best tracks.
“We worked hard at Bristol and came out with a top-10 finish, which was pretty good considering everything that went on that weekend,” he said. “We’ll have fun in Richmond.”
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Ford Hall of Fans Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Why is SHR a successful race team?
“You just don’t have turnover. When you really think about that and look at the employees, they’re employees who wanted to go over there when it was established with Tony (Stewart) and they’re still there today. That speaks volumes about the ownership, leadership, management, all the way down to the drivers and partners on those cars. It really just feels like family. It’s pretty at ease. It’s easy to be an employee there. You want to be an employee there. When you go to the shop, you enjoy the conversation. For me, it feels like more than half of the employees are dirt racers. They either have a kid racing Modified or helping someone with a Late Model. They’re racers.”
Is that a credit to Tony Stewart?
“It’s a credit to him. Everybody had the confidence in a champion going over there. He took a big step going over there and forming his half of Stewart-Haas. It’s a big credit. You can’t leave out the boss, Gene Haas. Everybody knows he steps up whenever needed. The conversation with Gene is, ‘When are you going to win? How are going to win? What do you need to win more?’ It’s never anything about anything other than that. He’s so competitive. You see it in his business practice. You see it in F1. It’s so cool to see those cars make some noise over there. That’s on a global scale. The guy is doing it over there just like he does it in our world.”