It doesn’t take much to get Clint Bowyer excited about Wednesday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race held for the first time ever at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and run with a few interesting changes.
Marrying the sport’s toughest track with its wildest race and the biggest purse is sure to produce fireworks. Now, throw in $1 million to the winner and it merits everyone’s attention, including Bowyer’s.
“It is the All-Star Race. One million dollars! Say it with me. It is one of those things where you have been dreaming of the opportunity for a long time,” said Bowyer, who finished second May 31 in the most recent points race at Bristol.
“I’m glad for the opportunity to get this All-Star Race to Bristol. I thought it was a perfect fit for the All-Star format and I am excited to get there and see it all go down.”
Bowyer is a three-time winner of the NASCAR Open race that precedes the All Star event. A fourth win, or if he wins either of the Open’s first two segments, will earn Bowyer a spot in the All Star Race. If all else fails, he’s in a close battle to win the fan vote to transfer one more Open competitor to the All Star Race.
Three drivers have won the All-Star Race after advancing from the Open.
The All-Star Open and the All-Star Race will feature several new wrinkles Wednesday night.
Each driver’s car number won’t be centered on the driver-side body panel as normal. Instead, it will move back toward the rear wheel, giving teams more room for the sponsor logos on the sides of the cars. Also, the cars will feature underglow lighting beneath them that should add a visual effect never seen at a Cup Series race.
Additionally a choose rule will be in effect Wednesday night. When drivers emerge single file after pit stops under caution, a lap or two before the restart they will drive to a designated spot on the track marked by a cone, where they must commit to either the inside or outside lane for the restart. Failure to make a clear choice or changing lanes after the designated spot will result in a tail-of-the-field penalty. This is different from the current double-file restart system, where only the race leader chooses his lane.
Having the rule for the All-Star Race gives every driver the ability to make his own decision on whether to start in the inside or outside lane, and strategy will come into play in every instance. For example, the second-place driver could choose to start behind the leader or on the front row. Or, if the first four drivers pick the same lane because it is the preferred groove, the driver in fifth might decide to restart on the front row, even though it may be the non-preferred groove.
Bowyer approves of all the new wrinkles, but cautions race fans not to expect too much from the choose rule.
“I think it’s a good idea, but I want us to be careful and not oversell it,” he said. “For the most part, I don’t see people giving up two or three spots to stay on the outside. Possibly, if you are on old tires or something like that, that is where an opportunity like that comes in. Can it work? Yes. The rest of the car changes are going to be really cool and I can’t wait to see them under the lights.”
The All-Star Open will have three stages with Stages 1 and 2 being 35 laps apiece and Stage 3 lasting 15 laps. The winner of each stage, as well as the winner of the All-Star Fan Vote, will advance to the All-Star Race main event. In addition to the Open stage winners and Fan Vote winner, the All-Star Race consists of 2019 and 2020 race winners, as well as previous All-Star winners and active full-time Cup champions.
The All-Star Race will have four stages with Stage 1 lasting 55 laps, Stages 2 and 3 35 laps apiece, and Stage 4 lasting 15 laps. Only green-flag laps will count in the final stage, and the final stage will end with a checkered flag. If the race is restarted with two or fewer laps remaining, then there will be unlimited attempts at a green-white-checkered finish.
Bowyer’s No. 14 Mustang will carry Rush Truck Centers and Mobil 1 decals at Bristol. Rush 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.
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.
Wednesday’s event is the NASCAR Cup Series’ 14th since the Cup Series returned from a 10-week hiatus on May 17 due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As it did at the previous 13 races, NASCAR series and team personnel in the infield will continue to operate under a comprehensive health and safety plan at Bristol that permits no fans, limited crew, strict social distancing, and mandated personal protective equipment and health screenings for all.
Bowyer arrives at Bristol after finishing 14th Sunday at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. A caution after a green-flag stop and late damage hurt Bowyer’s chances for what looked like a top-five finish in the making. A caution has fallen just laps after Bowyer made green-flag stops three times in the two most recent Cup Series races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Kentucky.
“We have been running well, but we could obviously use a good finish,” Bowyer said. “There’s no better place for me than Bristol, so I’m pretty pumped up about Wednesday night.”
And, as Bowyer is quick to point out, there’s also $1 million on the line.
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Can you describe your season so far?
“It is hard trying to learn one another in this format, with no practice or anything else. Honestly, it is just weird. It feels like you should have an asterisk behind every finish. If we would have had practice, we would have had a little different run or a different setup in the car and wouldn’t have encountered those problems. Those are all things that not having that chance to communicate and work with one another that we just don’t have and take for granted right now. It is the same for everybody. You have to unload well and my teammate Kevin Harvick says all the time that you can’t drive a slow car fast. We have had fast racecars and have led laps. We are kind of snake-bit right now. I hate the words bad luck, but I mean, at Indy we were seventh place and pretty much had it locked up. With 21 to go, caution comes out. We pit, two laps later the caution comes out and the rest is history. We are a lap down and 17th on old tires. You are screwed. Same thing happens in Kentucky on Sunday. We are top-five and caution comes out. It is just the way it is right now. I have been racing long enough to know that it will flip and those runs will come back. We have some good tracks for us coming up. We need a good run. We need a confidence booster. My crew, (crew chief) Johnny Klausmeier, everyone does a great job and works their butts off. It is hard to showcase how hard they are working right now by just showing up and racing. You don’t get that run that you deserve, sometimes, like what happened to us in Indy and Kentucky”