No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Ford Mustang driver Clint Bowyer believes the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season will be one of change for competitors, fans, teams and corporate partners. The sport’s normal breakneck pace, combined with new leadership and a daring new rules package designed to boost competition should dominate headlines throughout the year.
But one thing will remain the same according to the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver who logged two victories, nine top-five finishes and 16 top-10s in 2018.
“I know there is a lot going on rules-wise in 2019, but that’s for later,” said Bowyer, who crossed the finish line of the 2007 Daytona 500 upside down and on fire. “Let me tell you, the Daytona 500 is still going to be the Daytona 500. That’s still the ‘Granddaddy of Them All’ and the race everyone wants to win. You are still going to see the same wild racing and the same intensity. That’s going to be must-see television, for sure.”
Las Vegas odds already make Bowyer one of the top four favorites to capture the sport’s most prestigious race. His Roush-Yates-powered Mustang, combined with Ford Performance expertise and the crew chief Mike Bugarewicz-led crew at SHR should keep him at the front of all the events of the 2019 Speedweeks. Bowyer’s Speedweeks kicks off Sunday when he drives the No. 14 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang in the 75-lap Advanced Auto Parts Clash – his first Clash appearance since 2016.
“We’re glad to be back in the Clash where we belong,” said Bowyer, who finished second in the 2012 championship and third in the 2007 title chase but just missed advancing to the Round of 4 in 2018. “That’s going to be the first time we race against each other and gets us a jump on learning where our stuff is at before we race again Thursday in the qualifying races.”
NASCAR officials in October announced two baseline rules packages for the 2019 season, making a move to bolster competition with enhanced aerodynamic and engine configurations. The different packages are tailored to the specific tracks on the Cup Series circuit, with a combination of a smaller tapered spacer to reduce engine horsepower to a target goal of 550 – from 750 – and aero ducts to foster tighter racing on a majority of speedways measuring longer than 1 mile. Both features will be in place for 17 of the 36 races, except for the Daytona 500, which will run with traditional restrictor-plate rules. Five other races will be run with the smaller spacer, but without ducts.
“This is a drastic rule change,” said Bowyer, who tested the package at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Jan. 31 to Feb 1. “The face of our sport is going to be different. Time will tell what opinions are made, and certainly I’ll form my opinion when that time comes. Testing is one thing. It is, what, 14, 15 cars out there. When you get to race weekend with 40 cars, it’s a whole different story. Right now, I’m focused on Daytona.”
It’s fitting Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford begins the season carrying the Rush Truck Centers and Mobil 1 paint schemes at Daytona. Rush Truck Centers has been the primary partner for the No. 14 team since Bowyer arrived at SHR in 2017 and has been with the organization since 2010. The Texas-based company has used Bowyer and the team to appeal 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 22 states. According to Rush Truck Centers, the trucking industry is expected to need 200,000 diesel technicians over the next 10 years to keep up with maintenance demands. Rush Truck Centers wants to make NASCAR fans aware of these opportunities and knows that, with Bowyer’s background, he is the right guy to help get the message out.
Mobil 1 isn’t just the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand, it also provides the entire SHR team with leading lubricant technology, ensuring that all SHR Mustangs have a competitive edge over the competition on the track. In its 17th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series.
“I know you hear drivers talk about the importance of corporate partners all the time and that’s true, but at SHR, they are a key to our success on the track,” Bowyer said. “Mobil 1 is such a source of technology under the hood and it’s a real advantage for us. Our success illustrates the technological advantages Mobil 1 is giving us on the track every single week.
“Rush Truck Centers helps us get to the track, and that isn’t easy. SHR has four primary Cup haulers, two Xfinity, and several test haulers. It’s a logistical challenge traveling all over the country, but the Rush Truck Centers folks oversee everything for us. Without either one, SHR wouldn’t enjoy the success we have enjoyed.”
Bowyer hopes he can celebrate with Rush Truck Centers and Mobil 1 many times in 2019, and none would be bigger than the season-opening Daytona 500.
“That’s the one we all want,” he said. “I’d wreck my mom to win that race. And, you know what? She’d be glad I did.”
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Are you ready for the new season?
“Man, I can’t wait to get to Daytona. After Homestead, you are glad to get a break and kind of unwind. We had a lot of fun but, after a couple of weeks, you are ready to get going and start racing again. I don’t care how long you have been in the sport, when you drive through the tunnel at Daytona for the first time, it gets your heart racing and your blood pumping and you are ready to start the new season.”
How was your offseason?
“The offseason is always an exciting time for everybody. You get the holidays to spend time with family that you’ve missed all year long while we’ve been chasing this dream of racing, and we’re fortunate enough to do a lot of fun things in the offseason. We went skiing – just got back from a skiing trip to Colorado. It was beautiful. It was great snow. Stopped and watched my Chiefs. Man, we lost, but we gave them a hell of a battle. Watched several Chiefs games. It’s been fun. It’s been a lot of fun to be a fan, you know. I mean, that’s the crazy thing about it, it’s no different than our fans in NASCAR. You become attached to individuals, to people. Usually for me, it’s all through a relationship, or something else makes you really want to pull for somebody. It’s been no exception with the Chiefs this year. They all came out to Kansas Speedway and rooted us on doing what we do, and we certainly showed up and showed the same respect to them.”
What are your expectations for 2019?
“They are the same as they have always been. We want to win races, develop consistency and peak around the time the playoffs start. We improved a lot last year and plan to keep that going this year. I know (crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) and everyone at SHR, plus the Roush-Yates guys, have worked really hard in the offseason to keep us going. That hard work will pay off.”
Your thoughts on running a Mustang in 2019?
“I have said for years that we should be running the Mustang in the Cup Series and this year I get my wish. I’m a car guy and there isn’t anything much cooler than a good-looking Mustang. I think the fans are going to be pretty excited to see my Mustang out on the track. Ford Performance is top notch and I know they’ve put a lot of thought behind it and I’d love nothing better than to drive a Mustang to victory lane in the Daytona 500.”