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Bowyer Is Proud Owner Of New Ferrari Ride

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, January 18 2013

Clint Bowyer gets some sports car driving instructions from co-driver Rob Kauffman. They will team up for the upcoming Rolex 24 at Daytona. (Brian Cleary photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Some news and notes from sports car racing:

A year ago at about this time, Sprint Cup driver Clint Bowyer turned up his nose – almost literally – when asked if he had any interest in driving a Ferrari 458 Italia GT car for/with his then-new NASCAR team owner, Michael Waltrip.

“Nah,” the Kansas native said with a shake of his head and a subtle contortion of his face, not interested.

But at some point between that day in February of 2012 and early this year, Bowyer had a change of attitude toward racing sports cars. Perhaps it was the challenge of driving in the historic Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. Perhaps he just needs a new watch.

But from the sound of it, the mind-changing came as the result of ego manipulation by Waltrip and Rob Kauffman, the c0-owner of Waltrip’s sports car operation.

According to Waltrip, it all went down like this: “We had asked Clint if he was interested, and he said, ‘I’m not sure. I don’t really think so.’ So I asked Denny (Hamlin) if he wanted to do it, and Denny was like, ‘Heck, yeah, I’ll do it.’ So I think the more Clint thought about it, the more he wanted to be a part of it. And he was like, ‘No, I want to do it. I really want to try it.’ ”

Nothing like using a tactic that parents have been using forever to get desired results.

“I got talked into the Rolex deal,” Bowyer said. “What a deal.”

So there was Bowyer, practicing in the Waltrip/Kauffman Ferarri during last the Roar Before the 24 practice two weeks ago. And, apparently, happy with his decision.

“He had a really good time testing the car,” Waltrip said.

And, a pretty impressive time. Bowyer, a very good road-racer in Cup (he won the race at Sonoma Raceway last year), knocked back some good laps in the Ferrari.

“I knew he would be fast,” Waltrip said. “It’s a fun car to drive. It does everything you ask it to do. He’s used to dealing with quite the beast in a Cup car where you really have to finesse a Cup car, and the Cup car won’t do everything that you could ask it to do. If you just try to mash the gas, it will spin around, or if you go into the corner too far, the thing won’t stop. With the Grand-Am car and Ferrari, you can really challenge it, and the car is up for the challenge. Serves really confident that Clint would not only be fast, but he’d also have fun getting up to speed in a hurry.”

Said Bowyer, “I went down there and tested and I was struggling to find where I needed to be on the race track. There was cars that were way faster than me and that’s something that was new for me. It was a lot of fun to be able to race with both bosses – Rob Kauffman and Michael Waltrip were my teammates. It’s just kind of an enjoyable weekend to be able to test down there. Looking forward to the race and hanging out with the guys for a long time. Twenty-four hours is a long time to stay focused.”

Bowyer’s sports car schedule for 2013 will be just the Rolex 24.

Getting Bowyer into the car for that race, however, left Waltrip with a problem.

“I had to call Denny and tell him Clint took his seat,” Waltrip said.

The team has entered a second car in the 24 but that driver lineup is to finalized over the next week or so.

So far, the Waltrip/Kauffman collaboration has been conducted at just the GT level.

Waltrip was asked this week if he and his partner/co-driver might be interested in moving up to prototypes.

“If we could get us a Toyota DP (Daytona Protogype), that would be pretty cool,” Waltrip said. “We’d probably be interested in racing a Toyota or Lexus DP. So, yeah, we’re interested in it. It would be fun to drive one of those things. They’re so cool looking. Maybe Toyota or Lexus one day will want to have one that we can race and that would be something we’d be interested in doing, for sure.”

After Daytona, the Waltrip/Kauffman plans are still being hammered out.

When asked if a run at the World Endurance Championship is a possibility, Waltrip said, “Well, I think that we’re still trying to figure out exactly what our 2013 schedule looks like. Rob Kauffman, my partner in Michael Waltrip Racing and really the driving force behind AF Corse (the Ferrari team) is trying to formulate what 2013 looks like.

“I know some conjunction races because Indy, and maybe the race at Watkins Glen could be a possibility. We’ve talked about possibly running Austin (the F1 Circuit of the Americas site in Texas) because it’s on the Saturday before we head out to Phoenix for the Cup weekend.

“But my main job is being a part of theMichael Waltrip Racing Sprint Cup team. So I have to sort of make my participation in the events hinge around the schedule that NASCAR – that we have in NASCAR. But Rob will probably run a couple more than me because he’s a little more flexible with his schedule. But I think maybe we’ll try to run a few but probably not all of them.”

Stevenson Motorsport’s 2013 full-season driver line up will again feature young American John Edwards and Scottish veteran Robin Liddell. The combination scored seven podium finishes and three wins in 2012.

They will be joined by fellow Team Chevrolet racers Tommy Milner and Jan Magnussen in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona as the team looks to improve on last year’s fourth place finish.

With a Grand-Am championship the focus for the team, Stevenson said it brings a big-picture approach to the opening round of 2013, but there is no question for the group what the best way possible to open the year would be.

“It’s weird, Stevenson has been a front running team ever since 2008 but we’ve never actually led the championship at any point of the year,” said Team Manager Mike Johnson. “So that’s kind of a first goal is to get to lead, and then go from there and try to maintain that lead. We’ve had a lot of wins and a lot of podiums but we have also had that DNF or two that has taken us out of the championship picture. So we have to get rid of those. I’ve always said that nobody ever really wins these championships – everybody else just loses them. And I still think that’s pretty true. The Audis and Ferraris have been strong in testing, and we were disappointed that GRAND-AM decided not to allow us to use the single-nut wheel attachment, but we will just focus on our finishes and look to keep building momentum all year long.”

After consecutive runner-up finishes in the GT Challenge championship of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, TRG announced a new lineup for what it hopes is a run to the 2013 title.

Ben Keating and two-time ALMS race winner Damien Faulkner will drive a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup for Kevin Buckler’s team. Craig Stanton, another past ALMS race-winner in a Porsche, will join the pair at Sebring and Petit Le Mans.

“Ben and Damien are going to be a lethal combo here,” Buckler said, “but you add in a brand-new Porsche GT3, Craig Stanton as the third driver in the long races, some of the best crew in all of GT racing, and of course, TRG; and I believe we are going to have a solid run at a championship this year! I couldn’t be happier to be leading the charge for this formidable effort.”

The No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype will feature 2004 Rolex 24 Champion Christian Fittipaldi,  American Brian Frisselle, Nelson Piquet Jr. and 2012 Rolex 24 podium finisher Felipe Nasr in this year’s 24.

The sister No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP will feature Portuguese driver Joao Barbosa, American Burt Frisselle and Mike Rockenfeller from Germany. Barbosa and Rockenfeller were both part of the team’s 2010 Rolex 24 victory.

Burt Frisselle has raced with the team in the past as a guest driver and is now joining the team as a full time Action Express Racing driver in 2013.

“We are really happy with this line up,” said Elton Sawyer, Action Express Racing Director of Race Team Operations. “Both of our Corvette DPs have drivers that not only bring a lot of speed, but also a really wide range of experience both in and out of Daytona Prototypes. The Roar test was really productive for us, and it was great for the drivers to get comfortable with the cars, and with each other. This is going to be the most competitive Rolex 24 yet, and we are looking forward to the challenge.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, January 18 2013
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