In his 16 years of racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, Clint Bowyer has sported dozens of paint schemes in many colors, but none like he’ll drive Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway when the 41-year-old former race winner makes his final appearance at the historic, half-mile track in Southern Virginia.
Bowyer announced on Oct. 9 that he will retire from full-time racing and join the FOX television booth in 2021. To commemorate his career, Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford Mustang fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) on Sunday will carry 58 logos of nearly every major sponsor that appeared on a Bowyer racecar during his tenures at Richard Childress Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and SHR.
“SHR allowed us to run this paint scheme at Martinsville as a way to say ‘thank you’ to all my current and past sponsors,” said Bowyer, who will close out his full-time racing career at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 8. “Along with the fans, it’s our corporate partners that allow the drivers and race teams to do what we do each weekend. If it wasn’t for the support of all these people, we wouldn’t be able to race.”
Bowyer’s car will feature his 2020 partners at SHR on the hood while carrying 43 brand logos on the decklid that date back to his first full NASCAR Cup Series season in 2006. Since his first start in 2005, when he ran one race, Bowyer has run 539 races, earning 10 victories, 82 top-five finishes and 225 top-10s. Bowyer hopes to add to those totals when he returns Sunday to Martinsville, where he owns a victory, six top-fives and 16 top-10s in 29 races.
While Bowyer is closing out his full-time driving schedule, he remains highly competitive. He arrives in Martinsville after finishing 17th at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth in a race that began Sunday afternoon but didn’t finish until Wednesday night because of persistent rain. Bowyer won the first stage, led 89 laps and held the lead until he was forced to make an extra fuel stop with just 25 laps remaining.
He wouldn’t mind a little redemption at Martinsville. Not only does he like the flat, .526-mile oval, it’s sort of a home race for the native of Emporia, Kansas, as his current residence is in nearby Clemmons, North Carolina.
“It’s 40 minutes from the house,” he said. “It’s just a fun, fun weekend. Fun racetrack. It’s old-school racing at its finest.
“When I went there the first couple of seasons in the sport, that was the one racetrack that I couldn’t wait to leave. I was terrible. I hated it, every aspect of it. Everything in your natural tendencies as a racecar driver doesn’t hold true there. Alright, I have to pass this guy in front of me. Well, I have to get in the corner deeper than him, I have to pick up the gas sooner than him, and both of those things took me about 27 times there before I ever figured it out.”
In 2018, Bowyer notched one of his most memorable victories when he dominated the 500-lap race by leading 215 laps on his way to ending his 190-race winless streak. It was his first victory at SHR, and he climbed from his No. 14 Ford on the frontstretch and looked to his left to see his wife Lorra and daughter Presley, led by then 3-year-old son Cash running from turn four toward “Dad.”
He couldn’t resist running toward his family.
“You know, I make fun of these other drivers sometimes for having tears in victory lane, but I’ve got to admit that moment got to me,” Bowyer said with a laugh about embarking on a raucous victory celebration that saw him climb into the stands with the Martinsville fans who stayed in Southern Virginia an extra day because snow canceled the race scheduled for the previous day.
“Cash was young enough that he had never been to victory lane before, so it was his first chance to be there,” Bowyer said. “That’s something I always wanted to make happen.”
Bowyer said Cash still asks him when he’s going back to victory lane. He’d love to Sunday and carry all the logos of the corporations that have made his career possible.
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Clint Bowyer Tribute Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Martinsville seems to be the most difficult track for drivers to figure out. Why is that?
“It’s a short track, but it’s not like any other short track you’ve ever been to. It goes against everything your tendencies tell you to do. You have to back the corner up and let the car roll way around the corner before you get back on the gas. Your tendencies are to get in the corner as deep as you can and get back on the throttle as fast as possible. Those are two things that are catastrophic there, so you’ve got to discipline yourself and stay disciplined throughout the race.”
Martinsville is your second-to-last NASCAR race. Are you at peace with how you career has played out?
“I don’t think anybody is ever satisfied with anything in life. I mean, if you win, you leave, ‘Damn, I wish I had hit that restart a little bit better. I didn’t lead every lap. I had a bad pit stop.’ That’s if you win. There are certainly things about that that you’ll always be not satisfied about, but I’m very satisfied with being able to be a part of this sport for a long time, having a lot of friends in this sport, making a lot of friends because of this sport, representing so many different organizations and just powerhouses in Corporate America. It’s cool to have those relationships still to this day, to be able to look back and say, ‘Hey, man. I represented them. They were a sponsor of mine.’ Or, ‘I know that CEO or that president, and I’m going to dinner with him next week.’ Those are all the things that were afforded to me in my life and my family because of this sport and being a part of it for so long. I don’t regret anything. I can promise you this – I’ve probably had more fun than about anybody out there these last 16 years, probably too much fun, sometimes. But, would I take anything back or change anything? Absolutely not. I mean, we got close (to the championship) once – finished second and I think fifth – had good runs within the playoffs and things like that. Did I win as many races I would have liked? No, but I had wonderful opportunities to and raced for a lot of good organizations. I won races for all three manufacturers. That’s something that was super cool. I’ve done a lot. I’m proud of what I’ve done and I’m satisfied, for sure. There’s no question about it.”
Do you envision a time when you’ll return to the car for a one-off race at some point in the future?
“I’m definitely open for anything. Hey, you can’t just shut off being a racecar driver. Are there tracks that I wish I never see again? Yes, but I’m probably gonna see them anyway. I’m gonna be there calling the races, but certainly there are some tracks that I’m really, really going to miss. Those road courses, believe it or not, are right up there. The short tracks and things like that, those are tracks that I felt like my talent and my experience that I’ve learned over the years were really good. I think that if an opportunity comes down the line and somebody was to be out or something like that, I would love to fill in if I could do a good job, and I know I could at some of those tracks, so who knows? I think we’re just going to have to see how it all goes and, if an opportunity comes to the table, maybe I’ll take it.”
How do you want your racing career to be remembered?
“I want people to obviously remember the good runs that I had, the fun that we had. I think everybody knows there are people who win races and there are people who win races and had a lot of fun doing it, and I’m proud to say there are probably not many people who celebrated and had as much fun winning as we did, but we had a lot of fun on the bad weekends, too. You’ve got to shake that off. You’ve got to chase this dream and the organizations and the people I represented – that’s what you’re most proud of, but the relationships and friendships I’ve made because of this sport, being a part of it, are what you’re most proud of. The fans, I haven’t said that enough. There is nothing more fun than going to a NASCAR race, and it’s that way because of the fans. This year has completely sucked, being at those tracks without fans. It is an empty hole that you can’t replace. You literally can’t. I’ve been one of the only drivers over the years – I’m not saying I’m the only one, but I go out each and every week and jump on the golf cart and go ride around and see fans and see people. I can’t tell you how many people – you know that ‘Ole Jim’ is going to be parked right there in the corner with his Winnebago and he’s going to have cornhole out, and he’ll have him some Busch Lights there. You know you can stop there for a cold beer, gotta see Jim. Over here are those people from Louisiana who have been your fans forever. You know those people. I don’t know their names, but I know damn well every single year that’s where they’re parked, where you can rely on them and know that they’re there and know that they’ll be there with your flag or your shirt on or your hat on their head. Those are the things that you’ll miss the most.”