Clint Bowyer has a guaranteed method to ensure he sleeps soundly at night during the Round of 16 portion of the 10-race, 16-driver NASCAR Cup Series playoffs that continue Saturday night at Richmond (Va.) Raceway before concluding the following Saturday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
“It’s pretty simple – you win Richmond Saturday night and don’t worry about a thing until the next round,” said Bowyer, who is making his third consecutive and ninth career playoff appearance in 2020. “Anything less and you are going to lay awake a lot of nights.”
A strong run Saturday night is key if Bowyer hopes to advance beyond the Round of 16, which began Sunday night at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
“You don’t want your season’s hopes and dreams coming down to Bristol, where anything can and probably will happen,” Bowyer said. “You want to get your work done this weekend in Richmond. Nobody wants to go to Bristol knowing they have to have a great finish to advance to the next round. I love Bristol, but that race is going to be wild and I’d prefer we be in really good shape before we get there. I’d like to win Richmond Saturday night, then go watch all the other guys sweat it out in Bristol.”
The Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver arrives at Richmond 13th in points after finishing 10th in the playoff opener at Darlington. To advance to the second round, which begins in two weeks, Bowyer must be in the top-12 among the 16 playoff drivers after the Richmond and Bristol races. A win at either track means an automatic berth into the next playoff round. He heads to Richmond tied for the final of the 12 transfer spots.
Bowyer has a realistic chance of getting that victory at Richmond and enjoying a pressure-free weekend at Bristol. He has two Cup Series wins, five top-fives and 16 top-10s in 28 starts at the three-quarter-mile Richmond oval. Bowyer also earned a NASCAR Xfinity Series victory there in 2007. Bowyer has earned top-10 finishes in the last four Cup Series races at Richmond.
“Past success doesn’t mean you can just show up and good things happen,” he said. “We have to go there with the mindset that we need to be mistake free and do everything we need to do to run well. I have said, if we can avoid making mistakes, this team can go a lot of rounds in these playoffs.”
This weekend, Bowyer’s No. 14 Mustang will carry the decals of the Ford Performance Racing School, which is based in Tooele, Utah, approximately 30 minutes southwest of Salt Lake City, and also has operations at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Along with high-performance driving instruction, the school conducts tire-training courses for BFGoodrich and Michelin, as well as product-focused experiential driving programs for owners of Ford Performance vehicles at no charge.
Ford Performance Racing School is the only school to wear the Ford oval and offers high performance driving courses to anyone interested, including one-day and two-day programs on the road course and oval at Charlotte. For more information, visit www.FordPerformanceRacingSchool.com
It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say about as many Fords can be seen at the racing school as in this year’s playoffs. Ford Mustangs comprise half the 16-car field. SHR’s four-Mustang contingent of Bowyer and teammates Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola and Cole Custer lead the way as the only organization to place all of its cars in the playoffs. Last year, then-SHR driver Daniel Suarez fell just four points shy of earning a playoff berth, otherwise this would have marked the third consecutive year SHR placed all four of its drivers in the playoffs.
“I think Ford placing eight Mustangs in the playoffs is just the result of the commitment Ford has to this sport,” Bowyer said. “They love NASCAR. In fact, they love all racing. It takes a lot of desire to have that type of success in our sport and it really pays off. I love having that blue Ford logo on my racecar.”
His Ford oval in victory lane Saturday night at Richmond could make for peaceful nights for Bowyer next week, and that’s just the way he wants it.
Is it an advantage or disadvantage for SHR to have all four cars in the playoffs?
“There’s no question that it’s both. I’m super-proud of everybody, all the men and women at Stewart-Haas Racing. What an accomplishment. All four cars. A group of pretty special people. I’m going to tell you, Stewart-Haas runs as lean as any organization I’ve ever been a part of and arguably as lean as anybody we race against, and certainly as lean as anybody who’s sharing four cars in the playoffs, I can promise you that. I’m proud of that. That means you’ve got the right people put in place and they’re all pulling on the rope in the same direction. That’s how we got here. We cannot lose sight of that but, make no mistake, there’s probably going to be a time within probably this first round you may have to be fighting one of your own for a position to go on to the next round within these playoffs. There are real-life scenarios that are going to be there, as well.”
Do you feel pressure?
“Hell yeah, you feel pressure. Yeah. I’m going to postpone that pressure until I get in that damn car Saturday night. I’m just going to wait for then. I’m not going to go ahead and feel pressure right now. I’ve chosen not to experience pressure today. Saturday, it’s a different day. I will feel the pressure. That’s just the way it is. I can tell you this, there’s nothing that lasts longer than a bad run. I’m bad about it. You ask my wife, she’ll say, ‘God, will you please get back to the racetrack and try to fix whatever this is’ because you come home as a racecar driver and you are super-pissed and not much fun to be around for a couple days after a bad run.”