Clint Bowyer has some advice for his 15 fellow racecar drivers and their teams battling to advance beyond the three-race Round of 16 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, which began last weekend in Las Vegas and continues Saturday night at Richmond (Va.) Raceway Saturday, then concludes Sept. 29 on the “roval” at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
“You don’t want your season’s hopes and dreams coming down to that roval in Charlotte,” Bowyer said. “You want to get your work done this weekend in Richmond. Nobody wants to go Charlotte knowing they have to have a great finish to advance to the next round. We did that last year and it made for some sleepless nights. We finished third at Charlotte but that was a tough weekend for everyone. This year, we want to go win Richmond and then go to Charlotte and watch all the other guys sweat.”
The Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver arrives at Richmond 15th in points after finishing 25th in Sunday’s playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. To advance to the second round, which begins in two weeks, Bowyer must be in the top-12 among the 16 playoff drivers after the Richmond and the Charlotte roval. A win at either track means an automatic berth into the next playoff round. He heads to Richmond 20 points behind the top-12 cutoff.
“You want a big enough cushion going into the roval at Charlotte because, as we saw last year, that’s going to be one of the biggest wildcards in the playoffs,” Bowyer said. “We really wanted to finish well last weekend in Las Vegas and this weekend in Richmond because nobody knows what’s going to happen in Charlotte.”
Bowyer has a realistic chance of getting that victory at Richmond and enjoying a pressure-free weekend in Charlotte. He has two Cup Series wins and five top-fives in 27 starts at the three-quarter-mile Richmond oval. Bowyer also earned an Xfinity Series victory there in 2007.
Bowyer feels he should have won this year’s Richmond spring race April 13. He eventually ran down leader Martin Truex Jr., in the closing laps and ran door-to-door but could not make the pass. Slight wall contact hindered Bowyer’s progress, and he lost second place to Joey Logano before finishing third. Passing Truex would likely have allowed him the clean air needed to keep the lead and win the race.
“I should have moved him and won the race for myself and the team,” Bowyer said. “I didn’t grow up racing that way, you know what I mean? I didn’t learn racing that way, but it is that way in today’s day and age. It’s not necessarily your character or anything else as a driver, it is just the way the racing is. You flat can’t pass ’em. I was three-quarters of a second faster than him and got to him and just rode. I had a window of about two laps there to do something and I kept thinking that I was going to wear him down like always and all it did was wear my stuff out and I was done.”
Bowyer said that Richmond race changed the way he and his SHR teammates thought about racing.
“It was also a learning moment for me,” he said. “I think it was a learning moment for all of us. We all came back from the competition meeting as a wakeup call for us. Those short tracks are my good tracks. I was a lot faster than him and you just knew. It never dawned on me in a million years that I would struggle passing him. I was so much faster.
“I thought I would catch him and roll right by him. As soon as I got to him, the air deficiency of being the second car, you are a little tighter. But I was so much better that I thought it would be fine. Within two laps at Richmond I was junk. I wore out the tires and now I am looking in the mirror to see who is catching me. In a matter of five laps, my mindset went from winning to having to block the guy behind me and manage this deal to get the best finish possible. We didn’t even finish second, we finished third. I had to let Logano go because I knew that if I got side-by-side with him, Kevin would pass me, too, and I would end up fourth. It was a learning moment for me for the rest of the season.”
This weekend, Bowyer will drive the One Cure Ford Mustang for SHR. One Cure is a project led by the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University. The One Cure program is founded on the principle that cancer affects all creatures and that treatment breakthroughs come through collaboration between scientists and doctors working with people and animals. This approach is known as comparative oncology and it is the guiding concept of One Cure and the Flint Animal Cancer Center at CSU. The center works to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in pets, and teams with the human medical field to translate research findings that will help people with cancer.
The center, located in Colorado State’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, sees more than 1,500 new animal cancer patients every year, with approximately 130 patients enrolling in carefully monitored clinical trials specific to their cancer type. The canine and feline patients are helping pioneer cancer research, moving cutting-edge treatments out of the laboratory and into clinical practice, ultimately providing hope for the next generation of animal and human cancer patients.
Bowyer hopes race fans will visit www.OneCure.com, where they can learn about the research and offer financial support.
“Racing is a lot of fun and important to all of us, but what the folks at One Cure are doing is as important as anything happening on the planet,” Bowyer said. “I hope like hell they are successful and I think everyone in the racing community agrees.”
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 One Cure Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Do you like the 10-race playoff to end the season and determine a champion?
“Those summer months are long, grueling and they drag on. You needed a wakeup call and shot in the arm. For me, that is the playoffs. New purpose. You are always racing for that win on any given Sunday and that championship all year long in the back of your mind. Now it is real. I like this new format – three-races, three-races, three-races, baby! It isn’t 10, screw the rest of ’em. You have to survive three races. Win one of these three and you are automatically on to the next round. For me, focus factor and everything else, it is a good thing for me.”
What are your thoughts on Richmond Raceway?
“It’s just a perfect racetrack. 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.”
Can you win the championship?
“I think we’ve got to go out and live up to our capabilities. If we do that, we’ll have a shot to go to Homestead. Everyone thinks they can win. I do. I really, truly do. It’s not smoke and mirrors. I believe I’ve seen enough out of our race team that I’m confident in our opportunity ahead. If we can go out and get those mistakes behind us, I’ve said over the last month and a half, we’re capable of winning. There is only one thing that makes you confident and that is success, and we’ve had that success to enable me to be confident.”