Bowyer Aims for Two in a Row on Short Tracks

Clint Bowyer returns to short-track racing Sunday at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway with the same No. 14 Haas Automation Demo Days paint scheme, same crew chief and same pit crew that propelled him to victory March 26 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series last raced on a track less than a mile in length.

 

But there’ll be a missing component when the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver takes the green flag on the .533-mile, high banked oval in East Tennessee hoping he can win his second and SHR’s fifth race of the first nine races of the 2018 season.

 

“At Bristol you have to have the total package, a lot like I did in Martinsville,” Bowyer said. “I asked (No. 14 crew chief Mike Bugarewicz) if there was any way we could bring the Martinsville car to Bristol. He said no because I tore it up too much and they had to cut the body off of it. But, I’m not worried. We’ll have another hot rod at Bristol.”

 

Bowyer hasn’t won at Bristol, but he’s often near the front when the checkered flag falls. He owns seven top-five finishes and 11 top-10s and has led 137 laps in 24 starts. He finished second in this race in 2017, trailing winner Jimmie Johnson across the finish line by 1.199 seconds. He started fifth in the final stage of the August race at Bristol but handling issues and an unsuccessful gamble left him with a 19th-place finish.

 

For Bowyer to earn his 10th career Cup Series victory he’s going to have to outrace about 36 other cars, plus survive on the treacherous high-banked short track on which lap times normally run less than 16 seconds.

 

“There is no way to describe 500 laps at Bristol,” said Bowyer’s, whose No. 14 Ford will sport the identical paint scheme it wore in Martinsville featuring Haas Automation, the largest CNC (computer numerically controlled) machine-tool builder in North America.

 

“If your car is handling well, it’s manageable,” he said. “If it’s loose and you are midpack and there is someone in front of you who is erratic, you are tense and not breathing. You haven’t made it 10 laps and you are out of breath. You think, ‘There’s no way in hell I’m going to make it these 500 laps.’ Next thing you know, it’s lap 450 and you’re wishing it was 600 laps.”

Despite the challenge, Bowyer said Bristol remains one of his favorite races of the season. He said there is an atmosphere unlike no other track on the circuit.

 

“I want to celebrate in front of all those wild and crazy fans,” he said. “There’s no better atmosphere. They’re so close to you that you feel that environment. I’m telling you, during driver intros, you’re walking down there and it’s just the feeling that comes over you before you get in that car. It’s just something you don’t feel anywhere else. It’s because of the closeness of the fans to you. They’re all breathing down on you and expecting big things out of you, and you can’t wait to go out there and get in that coliseum and go to battle.”

 

Bowyer arrives at Bristol still on a high after winning at Martinsville, then following with a ninth-place run at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth last weekend. After starting third at Texas – his best qualifying effort of the season – Bowyer ran in the top-five most of the race until he was shuffled out of the pack on a late-race restart. He ran out of laps before he could regain the lost spot.

 

It’s been a stellar start to the season for SHR’s four Ford teams. In addition to winning four of seven races, all four Fords are in the top-12 – three in the top-eight – in the season standings. SHR has led 850 of 2,145 laps run.

 

“They are bringing some fast hot rods to the track each weekend and it’s a pleasure to drive,” Bowyer said. “I know when we unload at Bristol on Friday, we will be fast. That’s a great feeling for a driver.”

 

CLINT BOWYER: Driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation Demo Day Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

How do you make your car go fast at Bristol?

 

“That baby’s got to turn it in the middle, man. It is so hard to get your car freed up enough to turn in the center of the corner, but not be too loose in, and then not smoke the tires up and off the corner. At Bristol, you have to have the total package, a lot like I did in Martinsville.”

 

GREG ZIPADELLI, SHR’s Vice-President of Competition:

Why the strong start to 2018 for all the SHR Fords?

“Everybody has worked really hard in the offseason, like every other team, but last year we were trying to figure out how to put motors in cars to make it to the racetrack, and that’s not a lie. I mean, it was that bad when we switched over to Ford. It was a lot of things that were a lot harder than we thought they were. This year, as a group, they’ve been able to work together and they’ve been able to work on a lot of little details, and I think it’s shown in the performance to start the year. But we’ve got a long year, so we’ve got to continue to work, continue to stay focused. We can’t take a deep breath or you’ll get passed in this sport.”

 

What are you most proud of in 2018?

“You know, I’ve been proud of the wins and the success we’ve had, but I’ve been more proud of the performance of all four cars so far this year when you look at them from a qualifying perspective, when you look at it a finishing perspective, when you look at where they are as a group in points, you know, that’s how. I’ll say I judge myself and the rest of us like this: the people at Stewart-Haas must continue to figure out ways to give all four of our teams the best stuff we can, and we’ve got to figure out how to continue to get our guys to work together and continue to make our stuff better.”

Notes of Interest:
  • Demo Day 2018 on May 9 at local Haas Factory Outlets (HFOs): The annual nationwide event provides HFOs an opportunity to feature the latest CNC machines, innovations and technology from Haas Automation. Showcased will be machine-cutting demonstrations and educational seminars to explain how the latest Haas machines and options can help make current Haas users, potential customers, and anyone in the manufacturing industry learn how the latest Haas machines can help a business be more productive, efficient, and profitable. The 2018 Demo Day celebrates the 30th anniversary of Haas Automation’s very first vertical machining center – the industry-leading VF-1. The “V” in the model name stands for vertical – an industry-standard designation for a vertical mill – and company founder Gene Haas added “F1” to unofficially designate it as the company’s “Very First One.” Introduced in 1988 in Chicago, the Haas VF-1 established an industry milestone by being the very first American-built vertical machining center to sell for less than $50,000, an unheard-of price at that time. With a published price of $49,900 – another industry first – the Haas VF-1 quickly became the industry benchmark for affordable CNC technology. Today, the Haas VF-1 still sells for less than $50,000 – in fact, it’s only $46,995 – and Haas Automation is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of CNC machine tools with an extensive lineup of more than 100 high-value, high-performance products.​
  • Sunday’s race will mark Clint Bowyer’s 441st career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 25th Cup Series start at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway where he owns seven top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. He has led 137 laps.
  • Bowyer owns career totals of nine wins, two poles, 66 top-five finishes, 184 top-10s and 2,575 laps led in 440 NASCAR Cup Series races. He also owns eight Xfinity Series victories.
    • His most recent Cup Series victory came at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (March 27, 2018).
    • His most recent Cup Series pole came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (Sept. 16, 2007).
  • The 2018 season marks the 10th anniversary of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). The Kannapolis, North-Carolina-based team is co-owned by Tony Stewart and Gene Haas andhas recorded 43 victories and 35 poles since its inception in 2009. Stewart won the 2011 NASCAR Cup Series title and Kevin Harvick gave SHR its second title in 2014. SHR’s Kurt Busch won last year’s Daytona 500, and Harvick won three times in 2018 while Bowyer owns one victory.
  • SHR has one points-paying victory at Bristol (Kevin Harvick in August 2016) and has nine top-five finishes and 19 top-10s in 54 starts.
  • Crew chief Mike “Buga” Bugarewicz is in his third season as a Cup Series crew chief. He oversaw Tony Stewart’s final campaign in 2016 and his pit strategy played a key role in Stewart’s victory at Sonoma in June 2016. Bugarewicz and Bowyer’s first season together in 2017 saw the duo post the 11th-best average finish of all full-time teams. In 2018 they earned their first victory together winning at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in March. The Lehighton, Pennsylvania native served as the lead engineer on SHR’s No. 4 entry in 2014 and 2015. The Penn State University graduate was the only rookie crew chief to be part of the Cup Series playoffs in 2016.
  • Bowyer’s Best Finishes at SHR (2017-2018):
    • Wins
      • Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (March 26, 2018)
    • 2nd place: 
      • Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (April 24, 2017)
      • Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway (June 25, 2017)
      • Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (July 1, 2017)
    • 3rd place: 
      • Atlanta Motor Speedway (Feb. 25, 2018)
      • Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California (March 26, 2017)
      • Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (Oct. 29, 2017)
  • Bowyer’s Stage Victories In 2017
    • Pocono (Pa.) Raceway Stage 2 (July 30, 2017)
  • Bowyer Cup Series Career Victories:
    • Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (March 26, 2018)
    • Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (Oct. 13, 2012)
    • Richmond (Va.) International Raceway (Sept. 8, 2012)
    • Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway (June 24, 2012)
    • Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (Oct. 23, 2011)
    • Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (Oct. 31, 2010)
    • New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (Sept. 19, 2010)
    • Richmond International Raceway (May 3, 2008)
    • New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (Sept. 16, 2007)
  • Bowyer Cup Series Career Poles:
    • New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (Sept. 14, 2007)
    • Darlington (S.C.) Raceway (May 11, 2007)
  • Bowyer Career Cup Series Points Finishes:
    • 2017 18th
    • 2016 27th
    • 2015 16th
    • 2014 19th
    • 2013 7th
    • 2012 2nd
    • 2011 13th
    • 2010 10th
    • 2009 15th
    • 2008   5th ​
    • 2007   3rd
    • 2006 17th
  • Bowyer Cup Series Career Stops:
    • 2017- Present Stewart-Haas Racing
    • ​2016  HScott Motorsports
    • 2012-2015  Michael Waltrip Racing
    • 2006-2011 Richard Childress Racing
  • Bowyer Xfinity Series Championship:
    • 2008
  • Bowyer Xfinity Series Career Victories:
    • Dover (Del.) International Speedway (Sept. 26, 2009)
    • Daytona (Fla) International Speedway (July 3, 2009)
    • Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (March 15, 2008)
    • Richmond (Va.) International Raceway (May 4, 2007)
    • Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway in Avondale (April 20, 2007)
    • Dover (Del.) International Speedway (Sept. 23, 2006)
    • Memphis (Tenn.) Motorsports Park  (Oct. 22, 2005)
    • Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway (June 12, 2005)
  • Bowyer Camping World Truck Series Victories:
    • Kansas (Kan.) Speedway in Kansas City (June 4, 2011)
    • Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway in Avondale (Nov. 12, 2010)
    • Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (Nov. 3, 2006)

TSC PR/Photo Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

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