ISM Raceway near Phoenix occupies a special place in Clint Bowyer’s heart and history.
The 39-year-old Emporia, Kansas native made his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut on the mile oval in the Arizona desert on April 23, 2005, driving for Bill McAnally and Richard Childress. He started 25th and finished 22nd, one lap behind race-winner Kurt Busch.
Busch, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick are the only drivers who were in the field for Bowyer’s debut in 2005 who will race at Phoenix again in Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500k.
“There aren’t many guys left who were there when I started,” said Bowyer, who has gone on to post 10 victories in 472 Cup Series starts. “That’s a big turnover. Obviously, our sport has undergone a lot of change over the last 15 or so years.”
One of the biggest changes besides the driver lineup since Bowyer started in the Cup Series is the amount of technology available to fans and competitors alike.
Racecar drivers now rely on digital readouts instead of analog gauges on their dashboard. Crews can send huge amounts of digital information to and from the track. Fans at home have as much information as a crew chief on the pit box while fans in the stands can follow timing and scoring and browse the Web at tracks like Phoenix that offer free Wi-Fi throughout the facility.
Fans and drivers alike are able to Tweet, Instagram, Snap and Skype every moment at racetracks across the country.
“Technology is a way of life, now,” said Bowyer, who notes the ease with which his 4-year-old son Cash took up technology. “He can navigate an iPad better than me. Everyone wants technology no matter where you are or how old you are these days.”
It’s fitting that, this weekend in Arizona, Bowyer will drive the No. 14 ITsavvy Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing. (SHR) ITsavvy (pronounced I-T-savvy)is a second-year primary sponsor in the Cup Series. The Addison, Illinois-based company is one of the fastest-growing resources for integrated IT products and technology solutions in the United States. ITsavvy has catapulted from a Midwest start-up to a national leader in IT products and solutions very rapidly.
Founded in 2004 by Mike Theriault and Chris Kurpeikis, ITsavvy has been consistently recognized as one of the fastest-growing businesses of its type. ITsavvy is a single-source, end-to-end IT partner. The company combines a comprehensive, value-added reseller business of more than 1 million computer, hardware and software products with an industry-leading advanced solutions group. ITsavvy has access to $8 billion in daily inventory in 46 distribution centers around the country with the ability to ship in-stock items the same day they are ordered.
ITsavvy will also serve as the primary sponsor on Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford at Dover (Del.) International Speedway in October.
“The ITsavvy car is probably the easiest car to spot on the track,” said Bowyer, who owns victories at Phoenix in an Xfinity Series race in 2007 and the Gander Mountain Truck Series in 2010. “It’s been fun bringing them into our racing world and we are learning a lot about their world. They help us at the shop and at the track with our IT challenges. Their success is our success.”
Bowyer hopes more race fans will know the ITsavvy name after Sunday’s 500-kilometer race at Phoenix. It’s the fourth event of the 2019 season. Bowyer enters 13th in the points a week after finishing 14th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Phoenix marks the second of a three-race West-Coast trip for the Cup Series.
While so much of the sport and the world is different since Bowyer’s Cup Series debut in 2005, one thing remains the same.
“I don’t care if I raced in 1919 or 2019,” he said. “If you are a racer, that desire to win is always there. I want to win this Sunday in Phoenix as much as – heck, if not more than – I did that first race in Phoenix.”
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 ITsavvy Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What challenges does Phoenix pose?
“There are a couple of tough things about Phoenix. Finding your stall in pit road is tricky, especially if you are pitted down around the corner. Second is figuring out the restarts now that we start in the dogleg. You have to figure out how to give room to the guy in front of you so you don’t get on the brakes and get hit from behind or screw up and let that guy make it three-wide and you lose a lot of spots. Finally, that sun is tough in Phoenix. You can miss the bottom (groove) the first lap or two because of the sun.”
What are your thoughts on technology in NASCAR and ITsavvy’s role with SHR?
“Stewart Haas Racing (SHR) is a four-car team and we have tons of extremely talented folks, but I’m going to tell you the number-one guy we can’t do without on a race weekend or, especially at a test, is our IT guy. If he’s sick, we’re all sick and that racecar is going to be sick. It’s unbelievable how much we lean on that side of things, on the technology side. If you walk through our race shop and throughout the garage, you’ll see how our racecars and our entire industry rely on technology. From engine diagnostics to fuel-mileage calculations, our business is dependent on technology solutions. The senior-level introductions our sport can make will lead to new business opportunities for ITsavvy. Every company needs what ITsavvy provides, and we’re excited to facilitate those introductions.”