Clint Bowyer is in a good space right now. After spending 2015 and ’16 with teams that were about to shut down, the Kansas native has made the most of his move to the powerhouse Stewart-Haas Racing team for 2017.
Through the first eight races of 2017, Bowyer is eighth in points, tops among the four SHR drivers. And he’s coming off his best finish of the year, a second-place run at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Prior to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice Friday, Bowyer sat down with FOXSports.com for an exclusive interview about his comeback season. Excerpts follow.
Q: Has the move to SHR turned out even better than you hoped?
Bowyer: It really turned out to be exactly what I hoped. From the teammate aspect of it from working with two champions (Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch) and Danica (Patrick) and everything she brings to the table to the crew chiefs and the cohesiveness within the organization — the army of employees behind those guys. It’s everything you hoped it would be.
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How much fun has it been?
It’s been a lot of fun on the racetrack. We’ve been successful. We’ve been solid week in and week out. Haven’t been spectacular. We’ve got work to do. But that’s the fun thing about an organization like this with a manufacturer like Ford and all the backing we have with all the sponsors. It’s a program where you’re not worried about those small things, because you know time is going to take care of all those small things.
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You were mad when you finished second at Bristol. Did that surprise you?
At the end of the day, you’re not mad; you realize how close you are to winning a race. It’s been a long time. That’s a special race. Then you’ve got to put it perspective: It’s a seven-time champion of this sport (Bristol winner Jimmie Johnson) who celebrated his 80-something win. The cat’s pretty good, and we’re going to have to be better to beat him.
What would winning at Richmond mean? (Bowyer won in 2008 and 2012 at Richmond)
It would mean a ton to be back here where I’ve won a couple of races. We’ve had a lot of things happen in my career here, both positive and negative. A win here would be pretty special. There’s always been a great fan base here. I’ve always loved this race track; it races awesome. It’s a good blend of short-trackness with a touch of speed to it.
Are you thinking about being back in the playoffs yet?
If you look at the points and the stage points, I don’t know that you’re comfortable until you’re several races ahead or something like that. Right now, no, I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about how we’re running, inching a bit closer to Victory Lane. That’s what I’m worried about. I need a victory at this point in my career far more than I need another point.
Are there upcoming tracks you’re excited about?
Here’s the thing: It’s kind of changed my mindset being with an organization like this, because you not only look at the tracks you’ve run well at with your driving style, which is short tracks, you start looking at mile-and-a-half tracks that as a company, as an organization, Stewart-Haas runs well at and you get optimistic about those. So it really changes your whole mindset about the rest of the year — going home to Kansas, going to Talladega with Yates horsepower under the hood.
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What’s been the best surprise this year?
You know, the best surprise … I don’t know that anything is a surprise. It’s just the relief of not knowing. After a year like you’ve had, a year and a half. Hell, it was basically two years of not being on the map, to getting back to where I’ve always been, and where I thought of myself as being as part of this sport. The relief of the fulfillment of getting back there sure feels good.