Bowyer Eager To Get Back To Driving For Wins

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 19 2017

Clint Bowyer will drive for a championship-winning organization this year and guess what? He’s excited about it. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – Optimism flourishes among drivers and race teams during the pre-season, but for Clint Bowyer there’s a high level of excitement and anticipation that the Kansas driver hasn’t experienced in several years.

“I love what I see at Stewart-Haas (Racing),” Bowyer said Wednesday at the Ford Performance Center in Concord, N.C. “I really do believe if I’m going to win a race, this is exactly where I’m going to win a race, in this kind of situation. (I’m) not nervous about things. I’m excited about things.”

Bowyer succeeds Tony Stewart in Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 14 Ford. The deal was made more than a year ago, but it meant Bowyer had to spend 2016 driving for HScott Motorsports while Stewart completed his final season in NASCAR’s premier series. For Bowyer, 2016 was a discouraging, frustrating and depressing season. In 36 races, he produced only three top-10 finishes, secured no poles and no victories. His average start was 30.7 and his average finish 23.6. He placed 27th in the driver standings, his worst since he made his series debut in 2005. That year he competed in only one event.  

“If he could have clicked his heels three times and made it 2017, he would have done it in a heartbeat,” Stewart said with a grin. “We were all reminding him to be patient; that he had a lot to look forward to. We all were hoping his season would turnaround at some point, but it didn’t work out that way. But it wasn’t for a lack of effort on their side.”

Bowyer admitted that last year probably wasn’t healthy for him, but knowing the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Ford awaited him in 2017 made it worth the wait. He described his new home as a “bunch of racers”. And for the 37-year-old driver that’s exactly where he belongs.

“If I had a chance at any other seat in the garage area, I really don’t think that I would fit in any other culture any better than at Stewart-Haas,” said Bowyer, who admitted he’s a “smarter driver” than he was three years ago. “They don’t take second as an option.”

Bowyer noted it’s been quite some time since he had a teammate he could lean on when he needed help with a setup. He also said when he asked if a team roster existed so he could learn everyone, crew chief Mike Bugarewicz took photos of each crew member and then emailed them along with their names to Bowyer.

“I’ll still screw it up, but at the end of the day that’s the level of dedication you have at Stewart-Haas,” Bowyer said. “You’ve got to be careful about asking for something because it’s just done. Last week they wanted to know about my shifter because it was such a big deal to them. I get down there and my man had eight different shifters on the floorboard ready for me to try.”

Halfway through last season, Bowyer and Bugarewicz began conversing on a regular basis. And Stewart believes his new driver can pick up where he left off when he was at Michael Waltrip Racing, winning races. He noted he and Bowyer possess similar backgrounds, both having raced dirt, and that was one thing he considered when selecting his replacement.

“Racing against him I saw things that I saw in myself,” Stewart said. “I see that drive and determination. He’s one of those guys that does not like to lose and that fits what we want at Stewart-Haas Racing. He fits the mold as to what Stewart-Haas Racing is about and I think he will be a good fit for Ford as well.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 19 2017
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