Feb 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Some of Clint Bowyer’s month of February has involved hunting and dirt tracks, two parts of his life that are part of his roots, his core being.
The other focus of the month, obviously, is on beginning his third season with Michael Waltrip Racing and bouncing back in 2014 after a challenging 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
Balancing that mix of “happy-go-lucky” and an ability to relate to the common fan, along with his driving prowess and focus on Sundays, will be key to seeing him return to the heights he achieved in his first year at MWR. That year, he finished second in points to Brad Keselowski in 2012.
Far too often in 2013, Bowyer and MWR came up on the unhappy side of the headlines. The Richmond saga stands out, but to Bowyer, the lack of wins on the whole was a more dispiriting part of the year.
“Richmond was tough, but the most frustrating thing for me was not winning a race, period,” Bowyer told MotorSportsTalk Wednesday.
“We couldn’t get the job done. Atlanta, we were so fast [he led 48 laps –Ed.]. It was the fastest car I’ve ever had. We set sail and were gone, and went so fast that the motor couldn’t keep up.”
He finished seventh in points, with 10 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes. But he has the potential to improve on that in 2014 because unlike a number of high-profile drivers (Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and former MWR teammate Martin Truex Jr., among others) who are all switching teams and will need time to develop chemistry, Bowyer’s entrenched in a familiar environment.
For Bowyer, the foundation is there for his group at MWR in the No. 15 5-Hour Energy/PEAK Antifreeze Toyota team, led by crew chief Brian Pattie.
“Trust me, we’ve hunkered down and been hard at work,” he said. “We’ve gone to Nashville five or six times; done short-track running at New Smyrna. A lot of testing.
“Being together this long is key, because we haven’t really lost any assets on (the 15 team). We don’t have to start getting used to each other like guys that have shifted around. We know what to expect.”
“We didn’t lose anyone on the 15, but no question we have lost some assets elsewhere,” Bowyer admitted. “(Crew chief Rodney) Childers was a big thing. The Martins (Mark Martin, Truex), losing them, you lose that database and great contribution they bring.
“But Burton I’ve worked with before. We speak the same language, same characteristics. He was a guy I leaned on early on in my career, and will do so again in the races he’s here.”
Bowyer and Burton were teammates at Richard Childress Racing from 2006 through 2011.
As for Daytona, the Toyotas have yet to show the pace of, ironically, the Childress-built Chevrolets thus far. Bowyer was the second fastest Toyota in qualifying … but only 20th overall, with Matt Kenseth best of the bunch in 17th.
Bowyer will start 10th for Budweiser Duel 2 on Thursday night. Despite the single-lap gap, Bowyer isn’t concerned the TRD brigade will be up against it for the rest of Speedweeks.
“I’ve learned not to put too much stock into what happens on qualifying day,” he said.
Where Bowyer was able to put some stock – and insight – was last Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited. As he didn’t score a pole position in 2013, he wasn’t able to race in the event. He observed the race and engaged with fans from FOX Sports’ “Hollywood Hotel” in the infield.
“It started out single file and in the booth I wanted to be like, ‘C’mon guys,’” Bowyer said. “To be honest, they were knocking the rust off, and it was the first time on track racing in three months. Then they went all out, and it turned into a wild shootout.”
Additionally, one other area where Bowyer is offering his time and insight is in a role as a judge and coach of the PEAK Stock Car Dream Challenge, which launched on Feb. 18th.
The PEAK Stock Car Dream Challenge is a nationwide search to find an amateur racer who has what it takes to be a professional driver. More information is available at PEAKStockCarDream.com; 2013’s winner was Patrick Staropoli, a 24-year-old Floridian who Bowyer said “Made the most of his opportunity” in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series starts.
But overall, Bowyer’s got his observations and insights largely out of the way. Now it’s time to see how he does on track the rest of this week in Daytona, and for the rest of 2014 as he seeks a bounce back season.
Apr 19, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Mercedes and Ferrari prepare to duel in the desert on Sunday. Join us on NBCSN and Live Extra from 10:30am ET for all of the action from the Bahrain International Circuit.
Apr 19, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Lewis Hamilton will lead the grid away in Bahrain on Sunday ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg.
Apr 19, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT
Watch a sneak preview of today’s episode as we hear from local racer Daniel Ricciardo on his home race weekend.
Apr 19, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Starting from pole position, Hamilton goes in search of his third win of the season in Bahrain.
Apr 18, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT
Beretta’s Ferrari to start up front for Round 5 of season.
Apr 18, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT
Newgarden qualifies sixth for Long Beach race, best outside IndyCar’s established “power trio.”
Apr 18, 2015, 9:05 PM EDT
With 1-2-5 in qualifying at Long Beach, Team Penske’s hot streak on Saturdays continues to open 2015.
Apr 18, 2015, 8:49 PM EDT
Polesitting entries bring it home Saturday at Long Beach for the TUDOR Championship.
Apr 18, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT
Scott Dixon hopes for success at Long Beach, a track he considers a “thorn in the side.”
Apr 18, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT
Ryan Hunter-Reay begins rebound from NOLA wreck by qualifying fourth in Long Beach.
Apr 18, 2015, 6:44 PM EDT
NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell returns to the Indianapolis 500 with Dreyer & Reinbold/Kingdom Racing.
Apr 18, 2015, 6:19 PM EDT
Helio Castroneves brings Team Penske its third consecutive pole to start the season.
Apr 18, 2015, 5:52 PM EDT
IndyCar qualifying about to go on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.
Apr 18, 2015, 5:28 PM EDT
Jack Harvey will start from the pole for Sunday’s Indy Lights race in Long Beach.
Apr 18, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
American driver Alexander Rossi performs admirably to finish third, having lost the lead of the race with two laps remaining.
Apr 18, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT
Despite expecting to struggle in Bahrain, Sainz will start the race from ninth place on Sunday.
Apr 18, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT
Grosjean believes he could have qualified higher up the grid, but is pleased to have maintained his 100% Q3 record in 2015.
Apr 18, 2015, 2:12 PM EDT
Simon Pagenaud led IndyCar’s final practice session in Long Beach.
Apr 18, 2015, 2:07 PM EDT
Daniel Ricciardo fares far better in the sister Red Bull, qualifying seventh in Bahrain.
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- Off The Grid: Melbourne premieres 1:30pm ET on NBCSN (VIDEO) 0
- Castroneves secures pole in IndyCar qualifying at Long Beach 1
- Hamilton eases to fourth straight pole position in Bahrain 0
- Hamilton closes out Bahrain GP practice on top 0
- INDYCAR confirms more aero kit updates coming to Long Beach 1
- Rocky Moran Jr. to replace Huertas in Coyne’s No. 18 for Long Beach 7