Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, picked up his third win of 2012 and his first win in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR’s home track. The win moved Bowyer up to fourth in the championship points standings, just 28 points behind leader Brad Keselowski with five races still to go.
Bowyer participated in this week’s NASCAR teleconference. During the conference he talked about the Chase, his first year driving for MWR and the next race on the schedule — Kansas Speedway — among other things. Below, is a transcript from the conversation:
CLINT BOWYER: Coming off of the win obviously rolling into your hometown is a lot of fun. A lot of confidence, a lot of momentum, everything that comes off of a win. But to be able to do it rolling into home, and Kansas is very special, a lot of testing over the next couple days, looking forward to getting there and seeing what we have for a race car and the new repave. My teammate Mark Martin was there, did the test for us, said our cars were really good. So just anticipating a good weekend.
Q. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like sometimes you and Carl, too, maybe try too hard when you come to Kansas; you almost put a little too much pressure on yourself. Is that possible?
CLINT BOWYER: Oh, definitely, it’s possible, but I mean, you put a lot of pressure on yourself because it’s important to you. You know, it’s important to run good in front of your hometown crowd and in front of your family and friends and everybody that comes out there. It’s just an important weekend for Carl and I both. I mean, that’s our home track, and I’ve gotten close a couple times, he’s gotten close a couple times. Neither one of us has ever got the job done. So maybe this is the time.
Q. I know you do the driving and your crew does the work and all, but how much being around Mark Martin this year, can you describe to what extent it’s helped you in your performance?
CLINT BOWYER: Oh, absolutely. I mean, Mark Martin is our ace in the hole at MWR. I mean, his experience, his wisdom, no matter what the conversation is is so beneficial, having our pre-race meetings, even post-race meetings. I mean, he’s just always very dedicated and very driven and just kind of a role model for all of us.
All of us have kind of been in this for a while now, but it never hurts to have a guy like that. He’s just on it, whether it’s on the racetrack or off.
Q. The new points system, which starting the Chase there was 480 total points and now at this point there are 240 points, how does this weigh on you guys? Under the new system the points are so precious, unless that top guy slips and maybe has a crash early and goes out and does not pick up points and then you get the opportunity to move up. How does that weigh on you and your team knowing that those points are so hard to get?
CLINT BOWYER: I think it’s a positive thing for our sport. I mean, it’s true, there’s only just a few points here or there that kind of separate those Chase drivers each and every week. But when you throw in a race like Talladega, it really shook things up. Had the 2 car not have got through there like he did, man, it would have opened the door back up for everybody; four races into the Chase it would have been kind of like starting over again and wiping the slate clean.
However, he did, and it’s kind of everybody chasing him and Jimmie Johnson.
I think it’s a good thing. I like the points system the way it is. I think it’s easier, way easier, to follow, and even so, going into these Chase races, these last five, it’s going to be oh-so-crucial to get that one point, whether it’s leading a lap or getting that next position in front of you.
We saw what that meant to Tony Stewart in winning the championship by one point. I mean, it’s going to be very, very important to get every point you can.
Q. For years driver safety has taken quite a huge role in the rule changes that NASCAR has made. In light of what happened to Dale Earnhardt, Jr., following his crashes at Kansas and Talladega, it was announced he had two concussions in a very short span. Is it time for NASCAR to start taking a proactive approach in making sure that drivers with concussions don’t further endanger themselves?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, I think it worked out perfect. You know, I mean, we had a problem with a driver, he sought the attention that he needed to to understand what was going on and is getting the right help and taking the right time off. It’s as simple as that. In my opinion it kind of polices itself. When a guy wrecks as hard as he did within a couple of weeks of each other, I mean, it’s just a bad situation to be in, no different than it is in any other sport.
But we’re a tight-knit family in this sport, and everybody knows everybody and everybody knows what’s going on in your surroundings. Whether they need to do something or not, at the end of the day, the appropriate actions were taken and they’re seeking the right attention that he deserves.
Q. I also wanted to ask you real quick about Talladega. A lot of drivers have complained about that track being a part of the Chase. I know it’s one you’ve had a lot of success at. Do you think Talladega deserves a place in the Chase, or do you think it’s time to maybe look elsewhere for another track to take its spot?
CLINT BOWYER: You know, I mean, I love Talladega. Obviously I was pretty dejected when I was on the short end of the stick. Everybody knows going into Talladega you’re not always going to pull out a win or even a top 5. Sooner or later it’s bound to catch up to you, and it did, unfortunately.
But look how it shook the Chase up. Had it not have been that race, those two or three guys were going to be pulling away from each other and just really wasn’t anything to shake it up. I’m glad there is a wild card race in there that can shake things up. There’s still a few more. Martinsville is one of them; Kansas on a repave, nobody has been there, nobody knows what to expect, nobody has a notebook going into this race. That can change the look of the Chase in a big way.
I’d kind of like to see one of these road courses in the Chase. For whatever reason in the last two or three years, they’ve become some of the best forms of racing that we have, the best product of racing, and so I think having seen that, I think we ought to look into one of those road courses for the Chase.
Q. You mentioned earlier change, and obviously change came about today with NASCAR with the qualifying on speed. But all the changes that have happened since, especially since you’ve come up, and there have been a lot of them, how do you adapt? What do you consider your ability to adapt and your team’s ability to adapt to these changes?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, I mean, you just have to do that. You know, adapting is the name of the game in this sport. There’s so many different things that happen through the course of a year, through the course of a weekend, through the course of a race, I mean, you have just got to be able to adapt to whatever the situation is and make the most out of it. That’s when the cream rises to the top and you separate the men from the boys.
Whether it’s a new rule package, a new qualifying package or whatever the case may be, we’ll all adapt to it and make the best of it and continue to put on a good show for our fans.
Q. Because you have those top three 10 finishes at Kansas and because it’s a home track, considered your home track, does that add more pressure on you, not only because of the Kansas track, plus it’s also the Chase going on for the Cup, and this is just not the normal type of race starting the season? Do you get more pressure from those situations?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, I think you do. I mean, there’s pressure no matter where you look in this sport. It doesn’t matter what weekend it is, whether it’s the Daytona 500, the first race, or the fourth race or the last race. I mean, there’s always pressure to perform, not only for your race team but for your sponsors and everybody involved. It’s a pressure-driven sport, and I think that’s why it’s watched and so important each and every week.
Q. My question is how do you go into a race weekend differently where you have testing Wednesday and Thursday than a normal weekend Friday through Sunday?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, I mean, there’s definitely a lot more practice on the racetrack, but it’s because it’s a repave and nobody has seen it before. And more importantly, the track needs to get rubber burnt into it and get cleaned off. We kind of saw that at Phoenix where the track was dirty and it really took a long time, a lot more time than anyone expected to get the rubber burnt in, and once we did, we ended up seeing one of the best races I’ve seen at Phoenix in a long time.
I went into that weekend thinking it was going to be a major bummer, and by the end of it I came out of there super pumped up and excited about the racing surface and what we had.
You know, so there’s a couple different purposes being served there this weekend at Kansas. But to be able to go through all that practicing and just making sure you go through all the things that you know work, things you want to try, this is an opportunity to get all those through the notebook, and that way the guys, the engineers can look at the simulation and see what all those changes did and make sense of it before you get to the weekend and down to the nitty-gritty.
Q. This week we qualify on a Friday. Which schedule do you prefer and why?
CLINT BOWYER: You know, just selfishly as a race car driver, I like it Friday right after practice. I don’t care if it’s Saturday, I just — it’s hard for me to practice Friday and then wait overnight and go through farting around at dinner and getting your mind off of hitting your marks and exactly where those marks were, not only in race trim but to separate that from qualifying trim. When it’s in a Friday qualifying session, a lot of times the last time you were on the race track before you qualified was in qualifying trim and that given condition, and you go out and it’s easier to bust a lap off.
Now, however, I think it definitely shakes things up and makes us earn our money when it’s the next day and you have a lot more time to think about it, time to change things and kind of second-guess yourself on where you’re running on the racetrack and your lap.
Q. You mentioned earlier that Martinsville is a wild card factor in the Chase. How big of a factor is that for you being that you’re fourth right now in the Chase standings?
CLINT BOWYER: Believe it or not, I think Martinsville is a track where we can win at. We just keep getting better and better there. I’ve gotten a lot better there over the years, and building a brand new race car that we’ve got a lot of confidence in, and really looking forward to Martinsville to hopefully get us another win. There’s still a couple racetracks here where I feel like we can win at and continue to stay in the hunt for this championship.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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