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Bowyer’s Long Nightmare Has Come To An End

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 26 2017

The smile is back on Clint Bowyer’s face because for the first time in a long time, he is driving for a championship-winning team. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

As Clint Bowyer walked an inspection lap around his expired Xfinity Series car as it sat in the infield at Texas Motor Speedway in the spring of 2004,  he wore a look on his face that said “beware of the dog”.

No matter that it was his first real NASCAR race. No matter that very little was expected of the young Kansan who had been so famously discovered by owner Richard Childress when his day job was working in a car dealership in his hometown of Emporia.

His engine had let go just before the halfway point of the race at TMS and his fried car was not the only thing that was smoking.  Bowyer was “pissed off”. The guy who is better than most  when it comes to entertaining the sport between driving stints, can be worse on himself than most when things are not going well between flags.

And last year, things went horribly for the 37-year-old Cup driver. After his Michael Waltrip Racing team folded and left Bowyer without the chance to get a gig with a top-tier team, he took a job with debatably competitive HScott Motorsports.

Last week Bowyer, now with top tier Stewart Haas Racing, insisted he didn’t really care
to talk about 2016 and the team owned by Harry Scott, whom he wound up suing for $2.2 million because of alleged “missed payments”.

Then, of course, Bowyer did talk about it.

“I think no matter what the cause was it wasn’t gonna get any better,” he said. “You still had to go out there and give it your all and try to do the best you could.  I was still racing somebody.  That was the worst part about it is I still wanted to beat whoever we could beat and when I didn’t I left the track pissed off.  When we did I left the track satisfied.

“Those were the things that were really hard to get used to, looking back at it all is we were in competition with Petty’s and Aric Almirola and Danica in Stewart-Haas

Clint Bowyer has a real gosh-darn team behind him this year. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

equipment and things like that.  I mean, when I could beat them it was a successful day and when you couldn’t maybe we left something on the table and you were frustrated.”

Keeping Bowyer sane during a season in which he posted just three top-10 finishes and averaged 24th-place on race day was the knowledge that his nightmare and an end date stamped upon it.

Bowyer took the HScott job after he was hired to take Tony Stewart’s ride at Stewart-Haas after Stewart retired at the end of 2016. Stewart’s No. 14 car was a championship-winning machine. As was the car of SHR stablemate Kevin Harvick. A third teammate, Kurt Busch, has championship potential.

They say the best thing about hitting yourself in the head with a hammer is the relief when it stops. Bowyer’s headaches stopped the day after Homestead last year.

Bowyer has shown big speed during practices at Daytona during Speedweeks. He was sixth fastest in the final practices session and was No. 3 on the list of drivers with consecutive lap averages.

Everybody knows that Speedweeks is Speedweeks and therefore, indicative of very little. Everybody knows that the nature of racing in the 50o is subject more to whim than true speed and skill. The fastest car on the track on Sunday could be the first one to the garages.

Bowyer has joined the team in the thick of a move from Chevrolets to Ford at SHR. One would think that could fall somewhere between interesting and chaotic.

Still, Bowyer says his new gig is everything he’s hoped for.

“The first thing when you have that speed right off the bat,” Bowyer said, “right off the

Clint Bowyer has landed on his feet after reent tough times in the No. 15 car. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Tom Copeland)

truck like that, that goes through your mind as a racer in this sport in particular is, ‘Gosh, I hope I’m feeling this in Atlanta next week,’ because I realize that that’s what makes up the better part of our lives and what pays the bills.

“I’ve got to have that speed that we had right off the truck here in Atlanta and as we go through that West Coast swing.  I hate the West Coast swing because they’re always together and it’s really taxing and hard on everybody, but when you get back from that the positive is you’ve got a good group of tracks that make up our sport and you can really get a good gauge and realize where you’re at and what you need to work on, or maybe how far ahead you are of everybody.  Who knows?”

At SHR, Bowyer joins a rather diverse cast of characters. Busch and Harvick are outlaws. Both have won championships and both are tough to figure when not behind the wheel. Danica Patrick is, well, an underachiever who still possesses a sizable fan base and cross-over appeal.

Stewart, the team’s co-owner, was one of the best drivers in the world in his prime and one of the most explosive.

How does Bowyer fit in? Well, everybody is saying publicly.

“It’s been great and seamless right away,” Busch said. “Bowyer feels a little nervous, but I think it’s because he’s apprehensive.  He wants to get out there and just get going again in a competitive car and I think with his energy and his enthusiasm in the driver’s seat, it improves all of us and we’ve improved in the owner area as well with having Tony Stewart 100 percent on the ownership side and not splitting his duties driving and managing the ownership side.”

Harvick has worked with Bowyer before. They were teammates at Richard Childress Racing years back. That’s a plus, Harvick said.

“The great thing about Clint is that there is no learning curve as far as getting to know someone or how they operate,” he said. “I know Clint’s personality and how he acts. But I also know how serious he is as a competitor and what he brings to the table at Stewart-Haas. He’s going to be great fit. He’s going to go out and be competitive and win races. That’s what we need, competitive cars that are winning races.”

Bowyer himself says, “I think the fit factor couldn’t be better for myself.  Tony, first and foremost, just a friend – meant a lot to me in my upbringing and everything, how I was raised and grew up of him going in and out of these local weekly racing short tracks across the country is how I even had a short track to race at and to begin with.  The better part of my career was alongside Kevin Harvick, so I’m very aware and fond of his style, whether it be driving style or personality or anything else.  We’re friends. That helps, and then Kurt Busch is another champion.”

Few would be surprised if the team produces a third championship winner in the coming years. Everybody will be surprised if Bowyer leaves tracks PO’s as often as he did in 2016.

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Next Race: DAYTONA 500

The Place: Daytona International Speedway

The Date: Sunday, February 26

The Time: 2 p.m. ET

TV: FOX, 1 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 500 miles (200 laps)

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 26 2017
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