Clint Bowyer relishes rare post-race interview after strong duel run

Photo by Harold Hinson/Harold Hinson Photography

By Yvonne Jones, Staff Writer

Clint Bowyer entered the media center at Daytona International Speedway after his runner-up finish in Duel No. 2 on Thursday night. There is a name plate — with his name on it — in front of him, and he can’t help but point it out. That’s because he hasn’t been at a post-race interview for performance in years.

Sure, he would have loved to have beaten defending Daytona 500 champ Denny Hamlin in his Stewart-Haas Racing debut, but the fact that he was even asked to speak to the media on this occasion was a big deal for Bowyer.

“It’s exactly what I dreamed,” Bowyer said.  “One position off, you know.  Obviously Denny [Hamlin] over there with the Monster crowd is looking a little better than I am here with you.

“But, you know, I mean, hell, it feels good to be talking to you guys, to be in here, be talking about success on the racetrack, speed on the racetrack.”

This was Bowyer’s first race after replacing retired three-time Cup champ and co-car owner Tony Stewart. And he is quite pleased with the start in the first points-paying race of the season. He didn’t run in the exhibition event on Sunday and practice was rained out earlier in the day. So Thursday night was his first real sample in the No. 14 Mobil 1 Ford.

“Well, I mean, just a confidence booster,” Bowyer said. “First and foremost, that’s our first time drafting, practice or anything.  We didn’t run the Clash, so to be up there with those guys that had done that and had those races under their belt, I was pleasantly not surprised, but just happy.”

He endured a miserable one-year stint with HScott Motorsports last season and hit career lows in several categories: top 10s (3), average finish (23.61) and final standings (27th) with the small team.

This is exactly what he expected when he agreed to join an organization with two active former Cup champs and Stewart, who has hoisted a few.

“Well, I mean, you knew it was going to be,” he said.  “You move over here to Stewart‑Haas Racing, everything that they’ve done, everything they’ve accomplished over the years, you know you’re in plenty good equipment.”

The last time Bowyer was needed after a race performance was at Sonoma in 2015, when he finished third. And to find his last victory, you’d have to go all the way back to 2012.

“The dream, yeah, I mean, all these things are really adding up to the reason why you we’re champing at the bit to get in this car,” the 37-year-old driver.

Bowyer is winless in 11 tries in the Daytona 500. However, he has won twice at Talladega, the other restrictor-plate track on the schedule.

“What a great opportunity to win the biggest race of the year that I have here. This car is fast.  The Roush‑Yates horsepower is awesome.  Everything that I thought it would be.”

Unlike some drivers who downplayed practice — or lack of it — at Daytona, the Emporia, Kansas native did wish he had more seat time before Thursday night.

“To get in the swing of things, to get acclimated to things, you’re darn right, I wish I would have been in that Clash so I could have had that under my belt,” said Bowyer, who will start sixth in the Great American Race on Sunday.  “I was a little rusty out there.

“It’s the same for everybody.  The rules are the rules.  I got a good team, a fast hot rod.  Fortunately we kept the fenders on it.  We’ll be ready for Sunday.”

 

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