Life is pretty rosy right about now for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer — he recently married, he and his wife recently announced that they’re expecting their first child later this year, and earlier this week, he announced a contract extension with Michael Waltrip Racing. The icing on the cake? Saturday night’s race will mark his 300th-career Sprint Cup Series race, and it couldn’t come at a better place. It just so happens that the host of this week’s race is Kansas Speedway near Kansas City, Kan., the track Bowyer, and Emporia, Kan., native considers his home circuit.
This race weekend will also be a big weekend for Bowyer’s mother, Jana Bowyer, and not just because it’s Mother’s Day. Most drivers will have their mothers with them this weekend, and those mothers will be recognized during pre-race ceremonies. Bowyer’s mother, though, will experience an additional treat — waving the green flag to start Saturday night’s race.
Earlier this week, Clint Bowyer participated in a NASCAR teleconference to talk about racing at his home track, his milestone start and his contract extension, among other things. Here’s what he had to say:
Q. Clint, you’re set to make your 300th Sprint Cup Series start this weekend in the 5-Hour Energy 400. Talk about the milestone and being able to celebrate it at your home track?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, every time you see one of these 300 starts or 400 starts, whatever it is with us, it really doesn’t register until you get back to thinking about how it all began and what it really means. Very fortunate to be a part of this sport for 300 races. Now just announcing that we’re going to be a part of it for another extended amount of time, it’s very gratifying and there is a great deal of pride that goes into that.
Love this sport, love being a part of it, and hopefully we’re a part of it for a long time. All of that coming down to Kansas, my home track, is even that much more special to be able to celebrate my 300th win right here in my own backyard at Kansas Speedway.
So, yeah, I’m pretty excited about the weekend. I had a great week, and can’t wait for the race. It’s our first night race. Everybody’s excited about the night race at Kansas, and can’t wait to get on the track. Hopefully my 5-Hour Energy Toyota is going to be strong.
Q. I wonder if you can just talk about the contract extension, first of all, and whether you really seriously considered anywhere else, and perhaps the other news you broke yesterday as well?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, really excited about a multi-year deal with them. It means a lot that we were able to put it back together at MWR. I’ve had a tremendous amount of success there right off the bat. The key to success in this sport is people and being able to keep those people together. So really happy about keeping Pattie and the whole group intact. To get all that behind you, I’m telling you, going through these contracts and stuff like that, it’s just hard on everybody. No different last time I went to the shop before we did it. I bet I had six or seven people stop me in the shop and ask, hey, are you going to re-sign? Are you going to re-sign? What’s going on? Because they’re wanting to know about their future too and trying to figure out what that holds.
So it weighs in on everybody all across the board. It’s not just me. You know, it’s everybody. So to get that behind us, to get a good run in Talladega and get some momentum back in our direction is something that was definitely needed. Now all we have to do is focus on winning one of these races, getting ourselves in the Chase, and more importantly, getting back to our consistency.
I truly do believe there are still going to be guys that race their way into this Chase. History always backs itself up. It’s always been that way. I think if you’re a Top 10 driver, you’re going to be in that Chase anyway. So that being said, I really am focused on getting back to our consistent ways that we’ve been known for. If we can do that, I think we’ll be in this Chase no matter what.
Q. So, were you looking around at all or were you content?
CLINT BOWYER: Oh, yeah. I mean, obviously, first and foremost, I wanted to stay right where I was at. I have a great team; I have a great sponsor; I have a great manufacturer; I’ve got a great organization that takes care of my sponsors that builds a great platform for all of them to be able to showcase a product and get their bang for the buck. That is so important.
MWR and Michael have always gone above and beyond, not only for 5-hour, but for all of my sponsors and because of that is why we’re signing back up together and all intact. We took care of business for our sponsors and they came back. That’s a big, big thing in this sport and today’s day and age is being able to re-sign these sponsors. The only reason you can re-sign these sponsors is if you do a good job for them and they see a return on their investment.
Q. I was also curious, do you know when the baby is due? How deep into the Chase are you going to be? Will you be on pins and needles about possibly the Chase and the baby?
CLINT BOWYER: Oh, yeah. That’s always something. I’ve watched all my peers go through this, and to be honest with you, it always seems to go smooth sailing. But never anything seems to go smooth sailing and according to plan for me, so who knows. All hell will break loose and we’ll just have to figure it out when we get there. We’re all racers. We’re also family people.
It seems like that’s one thing we all have in common as racers is we kind of got into this world with family and we need those family members. When they need us, that’s first and foremost always.
Q. Is the baby due in October or November?
CLINT BOWYER: End of September.
Q. I can remember interviewing you in the Daytona ARCA garage in December before your first ever NASCAR race or actually when you first came up, and you were confident then. I remember it well. As far as what you looked at then and what you’ve done throughout your career and now what you’ve got looking at you too, what you guys do best is adjust. Did you know you had that ability to adjust and move all the way up as far as you were going?
CLINT BOWYER: That’s exactly what separates the men from the boys in our sport. It’s that word, adjust. Being able to adjust to any given situation because there are so many different situations thrown at you on a Cup level. One of the things that helped me probably with that adjustment, no matter what the situation is, all the different things that I was racing in. I grew up racing motorcycles. I raced probably five or six different levels and different sizes, and all sorts of different things, outdoor tracks, indoor tracks. You know, when you’re 16 years old or so, now you up and want to start racing cars. Well, now you’re racing dirt tracks all across the country, and a few years later, now I’m intermixing dirt and asphalt, racing asphalt cars all across the country up north and Wisconsin and Illinois and Minnesota, all up in there. All the while I was still racing my dirt cars in the midwest.
So just being able to have that adaptability to no matter what the situation is, to be able to get the most out of those four tires. I think we all have that in common. It seems like we’ve all been able to do that. The more you get to looking at my peers backgrounds, the more you realize, hey, they did the same damn thing you did. None of these guys that get to that level just start racing at 25, 30 years old and just all of a sudden bought their way into a Cup ride and are competing at that level. Adaptability is everything at that level in our world.
Q. How do you think you’ll adjust to say a crying baby at 2 o’clock in the morning?
CLINT BOWYER: Terrible (laughing). I would say that’s probably going back to everything that we have in common is we all enjoy our sleep. We all run really hard, and we need our sleep, so that’s going to be an adjustment for sure.
Q. I talked to Ms. Sprint Cup yesterday and she said you guys race 36 or more races a season. So how do you keep up with the hectic schedule that racing demands?
CLINT BOWYER: Just be ready for it. There is really no way to get yourself ready for it and prepare yourself. You’ve just got to — whether you come into this whole world you get that opportunity, you have no idea what to expect or what’s ahead of you. Trust me, they throw you to the wolves pretty fast, and if you weather the storm and make it through that trial period, you’re usually pretty adjusted to it. To the point now where I can’t be home. You know what I mean?
If I’m sitting at home for more than three days, I’m like, let’s get the hell out of here. What are we doing? This is boring. We’re doing chores now. Who enjoys chores? So that’s — that really is probably the strange jest thing going into our downtime and our off-season in the winter time is just adjusting to being at home and going out to eat and there are actually people there. All of those things that we don’t get to see normal life when we’re on the road all the time.
Q. So do you like to go finishing and hunting?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, hell, yeah. Who doesn’t like that? Yeah, in the winter time if I’m home for more than three or four days, I’m going to be finding a hunting trip somewhere. Surely a hunting buddy will call.
Q. Well, good luck with the new baby coming on board. Hopefully that baby can do chores when they get older and you don’t have to do any when you’re home.
CLINT BOWYER: That’s the first thing you teach them, right.
Q. That is the reason we have kids, right.
CLINT BOWYER: That’s funny.
Q. You’re making your 300th career start this weekend at Kansas, can you just talk a little bit about some of your favorite moments from the first 299 Cup starts?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, man, start with the first one. You know, I never thought that day would ever happen in a million years, never. Your dream is racing dirt cars in the midwest. That wasn’t in your head. You couldn’t possibly dream that big. Your dreams would be over by then.
But starting that first race and then racing against all your heros that you grew up watching on television and hearing about, I mean, next thing you know you look over and Jeff Gordon’s right beside me, Dale Jarrett was on the racetrack. It’s just like holy cow, you know. That meant everything in the whole world. It was above and beyond anything you could ever dream.
Then fast forward to your first win, the first time you rolled into Victory Lane. I’ll never forget it. Both of my parents were there, my brothers were there, and it was just like surreal because here all these people were to help me get to where I was at, you know, and it immediately made you think back to how it all started. You almost get giddy and start laughing like how in the hell is this happening right now?
So those are the best memories that I can remember. Obviously, the racer in you, unfortunately, that is just how our brains are worked. We remember the bad times way worse than we remember or way more than we remember the good times, you know what I mean? So there’s definitely been some bumps in the road and you learn from those. Obviously wish they didn’t happen, whatever the case may be, whether you’re looking back at the 2012 Chase.
Phoenix was a bummer deal. That was the closest shot I’ve ever had at winning a championship, which is what we’re all here to do, and it got taken away. It’s just those are the things that you never do forget.
Q. You were a teammate with Paul Menard, and I was wondering what are your thoughts in terms of his skills, competitiveness and approach here recently?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, really good dude. Good for our sport. Very, very chill. His demeanor is professional and really like the guy a lot. Has a lot on his plate, does a lot with Menards. He’s on the board, and this kid’s no dummy. I mean, kid, he’s a man. He’s absolutely no dummy.
When he won the Brickyard, that is one of the biggest races that we know how to showcase in this sport, and he won that race. Certainly qualifies him as a good race car driver. He does a good job. He’s got a good team. Everybody on that team is solid and presents Menards well, so like the guy.
Q. I understand you have some events in Emporia tomorrow. Can you talk about how often you get home and why it’s so important to maintain such close ties there?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve got a lot going on. I actually am sitting at the dealership right now doing this interview right now. Landed this morning, and Kansas Strong is a PSA deal, actually a sponsor of the 15 car as well. So they have an event going on with their Kansas Strong folks. Going out to shoot a video with them, like an internet commercial here in just a minute, as soon as this interview is over. I’m here to sell some cars and have some fun.
It’s actually kind of funny. I have a show car that the guys in the shop built me for the dealership and their Kansas Strong event tonight, they have a dinner tonight. I think there are like 1200 people coming. They wanted me to bring a car over. So small town America, you don’t have to tow it over there, you just drive it over. So it was kind of interesting pulling up to the stop light in your Cup car next to farmer Fred beside you in his flatbed. It was interesting.
Q. Clearly you like to maintain very close ties to Emporia.
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, absolutely. Going back to our charity stuff, even tomorrow there is more. Tomorrow Miss Sprint Cup is going to come down and help me go to the high school kick off their pledge for no texting and driving. I think it’s only fitting for those high school kids to get back to the very school that I went to and gave me everything. So we’re going to do that and sign autographs at the store tomorrow. You know, then start getting after it.
Then we’ll obviously be here meeting and greeting people. I really do enjoy being at this store just to shake hands and see people come in. This is the best opportunity for me to be visible within the community. I mean, so many people come in, whether they’re looking at cars or getting service done or looking for parts or whatever else. It’s just always a lot of people flowing through the dealership. It’s fun for me to just stay in there and shake hands and hear people for a while. When you don’t live in that community, the best way to figure things out is stand around and listen to some of those people and you find out pretty quick what the town needs. So that kind of plays into where we go with the charity stuff.
Going on our off weekend, we always go and do the golf tournament in the summertime, and it’s certainly always a fun event. It raises a lot of money that we put towards all the causes and the community. So always a lot going on, but, hey, it’s a lot of fun. I enjoy it.
Q. You said you kind of watched a lot of your peers trying to go through and deal with a wife who is about to give birth and racing at the same time. I’m curious with all of your — or some of your friends having babies in recent years, is that part of — did you kind of get the urge to be a father as well?
CLINT BOWYER: You know, not really. It wasn’t anything to do with my peers. It was my nieces and nephews. Everybody knows me; I was always wild and on the gas all the time and up for a good time. If a party happened, even better. Still that guy. It’s just as soon as I had those nieces and nephews, you know, my nephew, Lincoln, just watching him grow up and teaching him how to ride bicycles and ride motorcycles and basically do what my father did to us.
With Casey, he runs everything in my companies that I have going on, my brother Casey runs all of that. So we’re very close. They live right around the corner from me. Just been involved with and been around all the upbringing and just immediately made us want one of our own.
Q. So are you ready to be home for more than three or four days in a row during the off-season?
CLINT BOWYER: Oh, yeah. It couldn’t have been timed any worse. It was like, you do realize that is right in the middle of hunting season. So maybe some of these big white-tailed deer we have out here in Kansas will be safe this year.