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Bowyer Ready To Say Seeya To Character Building

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 15 2016
Smiling became a bit tougher for Clint Bowyer in 2016. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

Smiling became a bit tougher for Clint Bowyer in 2016. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Back in June, driver Tony Stewart told the racing world that, no, he was not having second thoughts about retiring after the current season and, in fact, he could not wait to begin doing other, more fun things in life.

How nice.

sprint-logo-08Clint Bowyer can’t wait to see Stewart retire either. Because once Stewart does am-scray, Bowyer should be able to put pennies on the eyes of the toughest, most frustrating season of his career as he has been picked to fill Stewart’s driver seat in a car that has won a championship on a Stewart-Haas Racing team that has won two championships the last eight years.

“I’ve never struggled like this,” Bowyer said of 2016 on Friday at Kansas Speedway, site of this weekend’s Round of 12 Chase playoff race.

Bowyer has spent the season trying to make slow, down-list HScott Motorsports cars go fast.

The Kansas native has had little success doing that. The driver who has won eight races in his career and who has finished in the top five in points three times, has a best finish of seventh in 2016. His average finish is 24th and he sits 27th in points.

Bowyer took the job at HScott out of necessity. When Michael Waltrip Racing announced in August of 2015 that it was pad locking its shop doors after that season, Bowyer was left without situation for the 2016 season.

A month later, Bowyer was hired to drive the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford – but not until Stewart retired; meaning, 2017.

Bowyer said all the correct things about driving for HScott. He used words like excited and challenge, and phrases like glad for the opportunity. But he also had to know that Bowyer-like success was probably not going to happen.

And it hasn’t happened. Sprint Cup is all about equipment and engineers and, hence money. – things small teams just don’t have.

“It’s not one thing,” Bowyer said. “It is so many different things that go into these race cars. It’s just amazing.  I used to race down there and win championships and win races and you would pull in there didn’t matter what happened I knew I was going to win. If it was a little bit off or whatever else a little more wedge than it needed to be, drop the track bar a little bit more than I wanted, it didn’t matter I knew I was going to win.

“It’s a situation to where those roles reverse and you don’t have the upper hand on those guys and it’s a hell of a challenge and that is where we are at right now.”

If tough times build character, Bowyer has become Characterzilla. And that, he said, is how he will remember his days driving for Harry Scott, Jr.

“For me I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “This sport is hard.  It’s so competitive.  I guess you could say you take things for granted sometimes and speed and competition is certainly one of those things.  When you are in cars that are running up front it’s the easiest thing ever.  You are running back there in 20th-place land and it opened my eyes to how hard those guys are driving back there.

“You give and take up front and it’s the way I’ve always driven let a spot go you are going to get it later, next pit stop this extra round of wedge is going to get me right back and I will get around him no big deal we’ve got a long race.  Back there every position, every spot, whether it’s on pit road, on a restart, 20 laps into a run you can’t afford to give anything up.  It’s extremely difficult to race in that mid-pack land.  I’m looking forward to using that.  I think I’ve learned a lot from the racing on the race track and I’ve learned a lot about myself.  This isn’t easy and I think hopefully we can get back in here and there are going to be these seats filled again. And I’ve got a beer in my hand because the trophy is sitting right there right?  That is what we do this for.”

With character built, Bowyer is ready to get back into fast race cars. He’s ready to join a team that has well-stocked parts bins, teammates who expect to win races and a race shop which has a large and crowded trophy case.

“Just a great outfit over there, everybody from the top to the bottom, the teammates, I’ve worked with Kevin (Harvick) for many years,” Bowyer said. “I’m looking forward to Kurt (Busch).  Kurt is the one that I’ve never really known a lot about.  Always raced against him, but never worked with him in any way shape or form.”

Bowyer said he began his transition to Stewart-Haas months ago. He has been in touch with crew chief Mike Bugarewicz. He’s ready to return to the ranks of Sprint Cup player.

“It’s finally going to be a relief to just show up and be a part of the team and do your job,” he said. “And that job, your one and only job, is to drive that race car to the best of your ability and get the most out of it.”

Bowyer said it took an email to shock him into the realization that his longest season is about over.

“It is exciting. You get emails, like I was telling somebody last night, an email came across my phone and I look over and its No. 14 merchandise approvals for next year. You are like ‘holy cow’ it’s becoming reality.  It’s fixing to pick up in a big way,” he said.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 15 2016
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