Ford Performance NASCAR: Daytona 500 Media Day (Clint Bowyer)

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Ford Mustang

DID THE KOBE BRYANT TRAGEDY MAKE YOU RETHINK PRIVATE PLANS AND HELICOPTER TRAVEL THAT SO MANY ATHLETES USE NOWADAYS? “You know, life always gives us reminders and it is up to us to learn from them and pay attention to them or ignore them. It is unfortunate and very, very sad on so many levels. The sad thing is that those things happen all the time but it takes a superstar like Kobe for us to realize it and wake up. But again, it rings home when you are in a profession when you are constantly traveling, taking off and touching down almost daily sometimes. It definitely hits home and makes you think and appreciate every touchdown.”

WHAT WOULD CAUSE YOU TO STOP DOING WHAT YOU ARE DOING? “Well, I can’t. It is how I make my living. That is how we make our living.”

YOU ARE 0-14 NOW IN THE DAYTONA 500. IS THE DAYTONA 500 YOUR WHITE WHALE? “Man, I just got here and that is the second question and you come with that? You couldn’t wait a little bit to punch me in the face? I don’t know the white whale thing. We didn’t have whales in Kansas. They didn’t offer that terminology in Kansas. That was a long ways from our reality. Maybe a horseshoe or something like that. You have to redneck it up a little bit for me. It is time, you know? Yes, you think about it. I didn’t think about it early in my career. Early on you just want to win it so bad but then the years click by and you think about how that opportunity only comes once a year and I want to win that race. That is the one that you want to win. The thing is, the prestige is still there and the skill set that it takes to win has changed. You talk about the years, think about the way it was when I first started and what you had to overcome with handling and slipping and sliding around and a gutsy move. Now it is survival. You have to find that hole that is a safe hole to survive and make it to the end. You have to get there. It literally is the hardest thing to do, to get to the end of that race with all four fenders on it so you have an opportunity.”

YOU MADE A SPLASH ON SOCIAL MEDIA YESTERDAY FINDING THAT WALLET AT DISNEY: “Yeah, I didn’t mean to. I had that happen to me not long ago. We were at a sporting event over the winter and long story short, we were in an Uber that wasn’t ours. That guy got out and it was traffic jam city and I paid. The reason I knew where my wallet was is because I paid with it but I set it on my lap and we jumped out, a bunch of us in a hurry. I knew where my wallet was, I just didn’t know how to find it. Two days later that guy found me on social media and forever I will return that favor. Not only was it still there with all the money in it and everything. He asked how I wanted him to get it to me and I told him, ‘I think there is about $500 in it, you can take it all and ship to me or I will come get it and you can have half.’ He goes, ‘I will ship it to ya.’ That was the best thing that happened to me in a long time. Can you imagine being at Disney World with your kids and this is something people save for years for and here we are, we find this wallet that has his license in it, her license in it, both of their credit cards. I just knew we had to find this guy because he was super screwed. Literally the power of social media. I think it was 10 minutes. I will give you 12 minutes max and the guy was right in front of us. We found him.”

YOUR POOL GOT HIT BY LIGHTNING? “That was the craziest thing ever. We were home and it was flooding a lot and the lake behind our house was rising really fast. We were looking out the window and BOOM! It shook the house. It wasn’t like a thunder shake, it was like something hit the house. There was a really bright flash in the back windows, literally right where we were looking. The TV and lights went out and then came back on. That was a good sign from what I know about lightning strikes. I called my brother and said, ‘Man, I don’t know if this thing is on fire or what but we just got hit, I know we did. I am telling you that something around this house, close got hit.’ I got to looking and looked out the back and there is a slide that we have for the kids to slide in the pool and the water thing that sprays was shooting like a geiser up out of that. I was like, ‘Oh damn it hit the slide.’ I looked over by the pool equipment and there was smoke coming up and I saw the shrapnel over there and I found it man. Since then, my caretaker just called and said that the heat and air is out too. I think we have bigger problems. Lightning sucks.”

YOU HAVE A TEAM ON I-RACING: “I do. iRacing is something that has come a long way. Just think about what we just saw last night. That race. Who would ever have thought? YOu have commentators and sponsors wanting to get involved and drivers that are literally making a name for themselves sitting at home in front of a computer screen. It was a hell of a race. At the end of the day, you watch these races and you are like, ‘What did I just watch? That looked real, legitimate, like I was watching a race.’ And you were! I don’t know if you have ever been on iRacing or anything but I am telling you it is very challenging. The dirt races and late models are some of my favorites. Even those little midgets are a lot of fun to race around the chili bowl. That is what’s cool about it. You wanna go race the Rolex 24, we can race that. You wanna race Chili Bowl, we can race that. You wanna race the Daytona 500? We can race that. You can do it all on there in all different cars.”

HOW OFTEN DO YOU CHECK IN WITH YOUR DRIVERS? “We got two new drivers this year. They just started. He finished ninth last night. I don’t know if you have ever been at Disney World with two kids, let along your peers two kids and your other peers two kids and one of those is an infant. That is a lot. Then trying to take in the iRacing and everything else. My dirt late model guys were racing at Volusia last night and the rest of the week here. There is a lot going on. Speedweeks is very busy for racers.”

YOUR NEWEST COMMERCIAL DEBUTED TODAY, THERE WAS A LOT OF DANCING IN THERE. I AM CURIOUS HOW MUCH OF THAT IS ACTUALLY YOU? “I am curious why you would think that it wasn’t me. You just think that is magic? You don’t think the magic is within me? Well, this kid showed up didn’t even resemble me and I was like, ‘YOu are going to make him look like him or me look like him and do this rave thing you speak of?’ But they nailed it. Kevin and I were talking about it walking in here. That is the power of Hollywood. You land out there and that is what they can do. They can make a dancer out of even me. Little old me.”

YOU DIDN’T TRY ANY OF THOSE MOVES? “I had to try several of them. I had to attempt them because I had to lead into that but hell no, I can’t move that fast. I am 40 for crying out loud.”

THE DAYTONA 500 NEXT YEAR IS MOVING UP A WEEK TO VALENTINE’S DAY. HOW DO YOU ENVISION THAT AFFECTING SPEEDWEEKS? “I don’t think it does. I guess it gets me off the hook of a Valentine’s Day present and stuff like that. Valentine’s Day is always hard at Daytona anyway. It isn’t very heartfelt flowers when they arrive via your bus driver that had to go across the street to get them. I don’t know. You gotta get all that romance out of the way in the off-season that way you don’t get buried at Daytona on Valentine’s Day.”

YOU DON’T THINK SPEEDWEEKS WILL OR SHOULD CONDENSE? “No, I think if it was up to me, I would figure out a way to make speedweeks longer. I really would. I would figure out how to not have school cars on the race track anymore and actually have a race.”

WITH THE 500 MOVING UP A WEEK THOUGH, THE WEEK BEFORE IS THE SUPER BOWL WHICH WOULD MAKE THAT THE SAME DAY AS QUALIFYING AND THE CLASH. WOULD IT MAKE SENSE TO DO THOSE THINGS THE DAY OF THE SUPER BOWL? “No, I don’t think anybody should do that. It would be like them going up against the Daytona 500. We are all in this business together. It is an entertainment business and there is a footprint for all of them. That is a historic event which is America’s event. The Daytona 500 is a historic event that is also an American showcase. But I don’t think about TV all the time. I don’t think about ratings. I think about asses in the stands. I want to be able to go to the Super Bowl and if I am not in the car I want my ass in the stands of the Daytona 500 someday. I feel like we do owe enough respect to everybody and there is enough room for any venue to not be stepping on the toes of another and to respect that. And they do. We will figure that out. I think it will be plenty enough time to allow for the Chiefs hangover after they win their second Super Bowl to get prepared for our Super Bowl, the Daytona 500.”

“I don’t look at the Super Bowl as a game. It is an event. The Daytona 500 can’t be just a race, it has to be an event. The second that we lose sight of that and Chip Wile doesn’t host an event down here in Daytona, we have problems. It has to be the ARCA race that we watched here. The ARCA race that we just saw down at New Smyrna. The modified’s over there was super cool. The sprint cars and late models and modifieds racing over at Volusion and us over at East Bay. I even include that in Tampa as being part of Speedweeks. It takes all of that. For a race fan, that is why I always encourage people to come down here. First, the weather does not suck. It sucks in a lot of places in America right now but it does not suck right here and there is a lot of good racing going on down here.”

IF YOU COULD MAKE ONE CHANGE TO THE SCHEDULE NEXT YEAR, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE? “I haven’t seen next year’s schedule yet. I thought about shorter seasons but I just watched the NHRA kick off their season and I didn’t realize that they run the same as us, but they take those long breaks in between. I don’t like that either though. I feel like you need your splash, However you do it. Bang, bang, bang, bang and keep it going. Our later part of our year, unfortunately falls right in the sweet spot of opening another big sport in our country and that is a tricky thing for me. I feel like we have to get out from underneath that and get our program out of the way before football starts, like they do for us. That is the way it has always been. I don’t think that is by surprise that both of those things have always co-existed. Our schedule is so long that it is going to fall over somebody, whether it is football or baseball or whatever sport it is going to be. I feel like everybody has a spot in this country and we may have extended ours a little too far.”

IT SEEMS LIKE THIS YEAR THERE ARE MORE WINNING DRIVERS WHO HAVE CONTRACTS EXPIRING AT THE END OF THE SEASON: “It is all about the money and sponsorship, that is where that is driven. Unfortunately your days of being able to put together multi-year deals are in the past for now. If we can get the economics down a little bit and under control, I think you will slowly go back to putting down those multi-years together. That being said, I just read that NAPA is coming back to Chase (Elliott) for a multi-year dear. They are still out there, they are just few and far between.”

IS THIS COMING YEAR THE BIGGEST GAME OF MUSICAL CHAIRS IN THE SPORT IN THE YEARS YOU HAVE BEEN IN IT? “When you look at this, there are always rides available but there are usually limited amounts of very good rides and this year there are several of them but it is all driven off sponsorships and things like that. it isn’t a knock to any driver you see out there, and hell I am putting myself in that group. I think we all – we all know that you are only as good as your last race. You can’t go on a swing of bad races or have a bad year or whatever else. You have to be the total package and that is probably more so today’s day in age than ever.  You have to be the total package in that race car and out of it as well.”

Campbell Marketing & Communications for Ford Performance

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