Clint Bowyer Capping Off a Great Season at Homestead

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Clint Bowyer wishes he was part of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 this weekend in the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He also realizes his No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Haas Automation Ford team has made significant progress since he started at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in 2017.

 

“We’ve had a great year getting to where we were part of this playoff situation and being in contention to be able to run for a championship,” Bowyer said moments after Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

 

“There’s a lot of pride with (crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) and all the guys on the 14 car. It’s been a lot of fun to go to battle each and every week all across the country with these guys. Stewart-Haas Racing – I can’t say enough about the job the men and women have done at Stewart-Haas, getting all four cars in the playoffs and then, obviously, winning and being in victory lane, and everything Ford, Roush-Yates Racing and everybody involved has done for us. I’m proud of our season,”

 

To appreciate where the No. 14 team is now, it’s essential to know where it’s been.

 

Bowyer replaced three-time champion Tony Stewart in the No. 14 at SHR in 2017. The year saw the Emporia, Kansas native post three second-place finishes on his way to a year-end tally of six top-fives and 13 top-10s. His average finish of 15.5 was 11th best among full-time drivers competing in 2017, and it left him just shy of a spot in the NASCAR playoffs.

 

Bowyer was most disappointed the team never made it to victory lane despite a few near misses, but that changed in 2018.

 

The Bugarewicz-led team dominated the March 26 race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, leading 215 of 400 laps. Video of Bowyer’s young family running down the front stretch to join him in victory lane celebrating the end of a 190-race winless streak top the season’s highlight reel. Moments later, Bowyer went into the grandstands to celebrate with the Martinsville fans.

 

And his 2018 victory lane celebrations weren’t over.

 

On June 10, a Bugarewicz pit strategy to take two tires, then some incredible wheel-to-wheel driving by Bowyer with SHR teammate Kevin Harvick led the No. 14 to prevail by a few feel before rain brought the race to an end. Those laps on only two fresh tires, trying to hold off the hard-charging Harvick with rain clouds closing in, might have been the best of Bowyer’s career. His 10 career victories tied him at 59th on the all-time win list with Sterling Marlin and Donnie Allison.

Bowyer’s NASCAR playoffs turned out to be quite a rocky but successful run. An accident in the playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway left him with a 23rd-place finish and doubt as to whether he would advance to the next round. But a 10th-place finish at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, combined with a third-place finish on the “roval” at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, allowed him to squeak into the Round of 12.

 

Hopes for a good start to the Round of 12 vanished with an extra pit stop, combined with a mechanical issue that led to an accident at Dover (Del.) International Speedway and a 35th-place finish. Again, Bowyer rebounded at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway with a second-place finish. A 13th-place finish at Kansas Speedway near Kansas City paved the way to the Round of 8.

 

Bowyer’s plans for a good start to the Round of 8 races and a repeat victory at Martinsville fell by the wayside with an ill-handling car and a late-race spin that netted a 21st-place finish. The second Round of 8 race was worse when first-lap contact with Denny Hamlin at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth forced him to the pits for a green-flag pit stop and a 26th-place finish. Knowing the No. 14 had to win at Phoenix, Bowyer raced from 16th to seventh before a cut tire led to an accident that ended his championship hopes.

 

Sunday won’t be merely an “exhibition race” for Bowyer. He’s 12th in points and would like to climb into the top-10 with a good run at Homestead and reward Rush Truck Centers and Haas Automation, the two partners whose decals have adorned the No. 14 most often in 2108 and again this weekend in the season finale.

 

And, as Bowyer points out, “A win Sunday will make for a fun off season.”

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Describe your 2018 playoff run?

“Obviously, the playoffs haven’t really gone as smoothly as we wanted them to, haven’t gone as smoothly as our season has pretty much gone. At the end of the day, we’ve been a fifth- or sixth-place car all year long. We’ve been a fifth- or sixth-place team against the best of the best. We had some mishaps in the playoffs and things like that. Sometimes when you go for it, things go your way and sometimes they don’t, and a drastic measure one way or the other kind of changes the picture, points-wise, quite a bit. When you’re in the final eight, you go for broke and put all the cards on the table. A mishap at Texas really set us behind as far as the grand picture of the points were concerned, but it’s not really the situation you’re in, anyway. We were in a do-or-die situation and we went for it and came up short.”

 

Describe your 2018 season?

“At the end of the day, I’m proud of our year and proud of the work that we’ve put into this year. It’s been a great year for Ford. It’s been a great year for Stewart-Haas Racing. It’s been a great year for the 14 car getting back in victory lane for all of us. It was a long time coming for (crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) and all the guys on the 14 team. To get back to their winning ways and, certainly for me as a driver who hadn’t been in victory lane in a while, it was gratifying to get in victory lane a couple of times this year and knock on the door a few other times.”

 

What will Homestead be like for drivers not in the Championship 4?

“For those of us not in the Championship 4, Homestead is like the last day of school, but it’s still very important. Whenever you race, you want to win, whether it’s the season-ending Cup race or racing your brothers on dirt bikes in the backyard. Homestead is no different. There’s going to be a lot on the line with those guys racing for a championship, but the rest of us are going to race for a trophy, as well.”

 

Would a win this weekend be overshadowed by the championship?

“It’s tough to win these races, so anyone who takes the checkered flag Sunday is going to be more than happy. But, think of the momentum it builds. You spend the entire offseason knowing you are the most current winner. You’ll still be happy when you get to Daytona in February.”

Notes of Interest:
  • Bowyer owns career totals of 10 wins, two poles, 73 top-five finishes, 195 top-10s and 2,850 laps led in 468 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races. He also owns eight Xfinity Series victories.
    • His most recent Cup Series victory came at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn (June 10, 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 51 points-paying victories and 44 poles since its inception in 2009. It also owns three non-points victories in the Cup Series and three Xfinity Series victories. 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. Harvick has won eight times in 2018, while Bowyer owns two victories and Aric Almirola and Busch one each this season. All four SHR drivers have won races in 2018 and advanced to the Round of 8 of the Cup Series playoffs. Harvick represents SHR in the Championship 4 this weekend.
  • Bowyer has led 490 laps in 2018. That surpasses a career best of 400 set in 201
  • SHR has one pole and two points-paying victories at Homestead, plus six top-five finishes and nine top-10s in 24 starts.
  • SHR & Off-Weekends: There are only three off weekends on the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series calendar and SHR has won the week before each. Bowyer won the week before each of the first two. His March 26 victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway preceded the first off weekend, and his June 10 victory at Richmond (Va.) Raceway preceded the second off weekend. Busch made it a trifecta by winning Aug. 18 at Bristol. The next off weekend is after Sunday’s season finale.
  • All-Time Victory List: Bowyer’s 10 career victories put him in a 59th-place tie on the all-time wins list with Donnie Allison and Sterling Marlin.
  • Crew chief Mike “Buga” Bugarewicz is in his third season as a Cup Series crew chief. He oversaw 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. His two-tire call minutes before a caution combined with Bowyer’s aggressive driving at Michigan last Sunday earned the duo its second victory of the 2018 season. 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.
  • Buga Calls: Bugarewicz has made two race-winning strategy calls in his career at SHR. In 2016 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, Bugarewicz pitted Stewart from midpack before most of the leaders made their final stop of the race. A caution a few laps later moved Stewart to the front of the field, allowing the three-time champion to put on a classic driving display in a closing-laps battle with Denny Hamlin to win his 49th and final Cup Series race. At Michigan in June, he called for a two-tire stop when the rest of the leaders did four, moving Bowyer from third place to first. Bowyer held off a hard-charging Harvick for the win.
  • Bowyer’s Hometown of Emporia, Kansas is about a 90-minute drive southwest of Kansas Speedway. Emporia, with a population of 25,000, is home to Emporia State University and Flint Hills Technical College. In 1953, Emporia was the site of the first Veterans Day observance in the United States. At the urging of local shoe cobbler Alvin J. King, U.S. Representative Edward Rees introduced legislation in The United States Congress to rename Armistice Day as Veterans Day. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law on Oct. 8, 1954.
  • Bowyer’s Paternal Grandfather: Dale E. Bowyer was a 1st Lieutenant in the United States Army. He won the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism while fighting the armed enemy in Germany during World War II. The Distinguished Service Cross is the second-highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army. It is awarded for extraordinary heroism. While leading his platoon under heavy fire in an attack near Sinz, Germany, on Jan. 25, 1945, Lt. Bowyer was severely wounded by an enemy mine. He refused evacuation even though both feet were shattered. He shouted instructions and encouragement where he lay. Inspired by his bravery, the men re-formed, moved clear of the mine field and continued the advance. Only then did Lt. Bowyer allow himself to be evacuated, crawling clear of the mine field to avoid injury to people. “His devotion to duty and to his men, and his courage and fearless determination, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service,” read the commendation he received. Lt. Bowyer eventually lost a leg due to his injuries. After his career in the Army, he lived in Iola, Kansas, and worked in the dairy business. He passed away in June 1974. Bowyer never met his grandfather.
  • Bowyer’s win at Michigan in June was the 44th overall NASCAR Cup Series win for the No. 14 since 1949. In addition to Bowyer’s two victories, Tony Stewart owns 16 victories, Fonty Flock won 14 races in the No. 14, including the first for the number at Occoneechee Speedway in Hillsborough, North Carolina in April 1951. Three other drivers have scored wins in the No. 14: Jim Paschal with seven, Herschel McGriff with four, and Bobby Allison with one.
  • Bowyer’s Top-Three Finishes at SHR (2017-2018):
    • Wins
      • Michigan International Speedway (June 10, 2018)
      • Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (March 26, 2018)
    • 2nd place: 
      • Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (Oct. 15,2018)
      • Dover (Del.) International Speedway (May 6, 2018)
      • Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (April 24, 2017)
      • Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway (June 25, 2017)
      • Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (July 1, 2017)
    • 3rd place: 
      • Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Sept. 30, 2018)
      • Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway (June 24, 2018)
      • 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 
    • Pocono (Pa.) Raceway Stage 2 (July 30, 2017)
    • Indianapolis Motor Speedway Stage 1 (Sept. 10, 2018)
  • Bowyer Cup Series Career Victories:
    • Michigan International Speedway (June 10, 2018)
    • 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)

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