An Interview With: CLINT BOWYER
MELANIE VELISEK: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the NASCAR Cam video teleconference in advance of this weekend's Crown Royal Presents the Matthew and Daniel Hanson 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Joining us now is Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 33 BB & T Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. He has risen to 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, and this is big week for you. You'll be making your return to prime time television tonight with a guest appearance on NBC's "The Biggest Loser," and you're heading back to Richmond where you won in 2008. You've called this your favorite track. What are you looking forward to this weekend?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, hopefully more of the same. Our cars have been running well. We've been doing a good job at the racetrack here as of late, about the last month. It's been really, really good for us, so just hopefully can continue to ride that momentum wave and get a good finish and win one of these things. I mean, that's what it's all about. That's what we do this for.
Q. Can you describe how you went from 24th in points to 10th in four races?
CLINT BOWYER: Just ran well. I mean, that's all it takes, to run well and bring good equipment to the racetrack and do a good job on race day. I mean, very proud of our race team to get things turned around. The first four races were just terrible, and we dug in deep and got things turned around and had a decent run at Martinsville and just kind of continued to build on that and get that ball rolling, get the monkey off your back, and the last two races we finished second. My teammate won two races back-to-back. We finished second. But we've got to -- we've got to win races. I've been saying that all the time, and it's time for myself and our race team to prove ourselves this year, and hopefully we can win some more races.
Q. I mean, just mentally, is it a lot easier to -- do you breathe a lot easier today than you did a month ago, or was a month ago just too early to start to worry about things?
CLINT BOWYER: Oh, no, no. A month ago I was worried, very much so. But at the end of the day the reality was it's still way early in the season, still is even today. But with the new points system and everything that's happening around that, you really don't know where you're at. You think you do, but things will shake out. I think the cream is going to rise to the top, no different than it ever has. It's still early in the season, but it feels good to be able to get on a little bit of a roll here, and hopefully we can continue to ride that wave.
Q. I was watching the Texas race, and you ran real well there, and afterwards when you were doing an interview, you were sort of inviting other people, or companies, to come and sponsor your car. I just wondered if you could talk a moment about the landscape for getting sponsors, how difficult it is, how challenging it is, in these economic times.
CLINT BOWYER: Very challenging. It's challenging for every race team. I mean, everybody is -- haven't been on easy street really, but for lack of a better term, things have been pretty easy to come by sponsors and things over the years. And through the economy the way it is and a lot of things happening, you know, it has made it a lot more difficult, and we do have some open races toward the end of the year. It's important to me to make sure that I do everything I can possibly do, not only in the race car but like I did there at Texas outside the race car to make sure that I help Richard and everybody at RCR sell sponsorship. We're as big a part of it as anybody, and if we're not doing our job, it makes their job even more difficult.
Q. Have you guys been able to figure out at all really what the impact is of a bad finish? Seems like for a guy like Jimmie it took him longer to move up to where he is than you were able to do in four races. Is it that much harder to move up from a bad finish than it used to be?
you're the driver, just make sure that you're doing as much as possible and work as hard as you can to make sure that you are pointed in the right direction and you get those good finishes.
CLINT BOWYER: Well, no, it's still the same thing that's going to get you there. We've been able to have four pretty solid runs; two of them were second place finishes back-to-back. My teammate was the same way; he didn't necessarily get the year started off right, either, but he was able to get two wins and get himself pointed in the right direction and continue to ride that wave, as well.
But my other teammate, Jeff Burton, he's had the speed. He's had horrible luck. Brought good equipment to the racetrack and done a good job on race day, just things haven't went their way, and he hasn't been able to kind of shake that monkey off his back and kind of get on a roll yet, but he has got a couple solid runs and starting to get the ship pointed in the right direction, and I think that's what it takes.
That's what we did with our race team, and it's really made the biggest difference, just making sure that -- you're the driver, just make sure that you're doing as much as possible and work as hard as you can to make sure that you are pointed in the right direction and you get those good finishes. I mean, it's very, very difficult to run up front in this sport right now. It's so challenging, so demanding, so competitive that it's just -- being consistently up front is very, very hard to do.
Q. Is there a particular style of track where you feel you guys are real strong right now, second at Texas, seventh at Fontana, you weren't too bad at Vegas. Are the intermediate tracks good for you guys, and if so, what are the tracks you feel you need to work on?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, I've never won on a mile and a half racetrack, and that's -- that's number one for me. I want to win on an intermediate track. We've got Kansas, my home track, coming up. That's one that I've gotten close at a couple times. We've got a good package for those intermediate tracks. We've worked hard on it. Across the board everybody at RCR has worked very hard. Paul Menard has been a huge asset to our race team this year, and instead of a distraction -- a couple years ago we tried a four-car team and it was as much a distraction as it was anything. It really has truly been an asset this year, and we've been able to work well with each other and be successful.
Q. How much have you replayed that two thousandths of a second?
CLINT BOWYER: Man, it was a bummer. It's so hard to win these races, and when you're losing by that close, like man, you know, why couldn't it have just as easily been the other way around? And it could have been. The sheer excitement of being in a race that finishes well like that did, it was big. That carried over the off weekend.
It was funny, I was down in the Bahamas and I had people come up to me, oh, man, it was so close. I'm like, oh, shut up, you know? It's hard to take, but it's part of it. It was an incredible finish for our sport and our race team, as well. That was our second top 5 in a row, second second-place finish. It was a good points race for us, but at the end of the day that's one you want to win.
Q. Were you taking a vacation down in the Bahamas or --
CLINT BOWYER: Well, heck yeah. I don't know what else you do down there. If you're down there on that island, you're vacationing for sure.
Q. You mentioned needing to win. You've been steady throughout your career. What do you need to do to take that next step and end up in victory lane?
CLINT BOWYER: You know, just continue to improve. Myself, I have things I can improve on, our race team, our communication together. There's just a lot of things that you can do that you have to fine tune. I don't think it's any one big thing that's keeping us from winning multiple races and being a bigger threat. It's just more of the same, continue to, like I said, improve. I feel like we've done that. I feel like I've gotten better each and every year I've been in a car and in this sport, and it's time to take that next step.
I mean, there's a confidence thing there. You know, I don't know -- obviously I don't know exactly 100 percent what it is, but Jimmie and their race team are confident in themselves and their equipment and the race team and what they do week in and week out. I think everybody has kind of narrowed the gap there and closed in on them, but nobody has really stepped up to the plate yet. Hopefully we can, somebody at our race team and organization at RCR.
Q. Tonight you're going to be on "The Biggest Loser" on TV. You're also going to be a part of a Twitter party, which I'm going to be a panelist on. Are you excited about that?
CLINT BOWYER: Very excited about -- I'll be truthful. Very excited about the show tonight. It was a neat experience. Very fortunate to be able to work with Cheerios and "The Biggest Loser" and be a part of it. It meant a lot to me. I learned a lot from the show and I've followed it since then. It's a really inspirational show. It's very interesting. It's unbelievable how hard they work to obtain their goals, and that's what we do week in and week out is try to reach our goals and do everything in our power to reach those. Certainly there's some relation there between the two.
But the Twitter party I'm not a big fan of; I'm not going to lie.
Q. With all the time that you're out there on the track and as you're competing with guys in practice or in different situations, I'm curious if there's -- just the way things have happened, are there certain guys that maybe you've learned the most from in the sense of just watching them being on the track or racing against them, whether it's teammates or just anybody else, whether it's this year or just through the past years?
CLINT BOWYER: There's really not any one guy in particular that you can pick up all that from. You know, it's a little bit of everybody, and that's what makes our sport what it is. You know, I feel like you can learn just a little bit from everybody, sometimes people's mistakes. It's not always the things they're doing right that you learn from, and more often than not it's the things they're doing wrong that you learn the most from, at least with myself.
But I've been pretty fortunate to learn from all the guys, especially inside that Chase. When you get inside you have such an elite crowd you kind of become one of the boys, and you're all racing for the same goal there. It seems like you rise to the occasion and step it up another level, and sometimes it's a level that you maybe didn't even know you had.
Q. Kind of on that same topic, Richmond obviously is a track where you've had a lot of success. You've got a higher finishing average than just about everybody else. That said, Hamlin and Kyle Busch have won the last four there; have you been able to be around them enough to notice things that can help you to maybe break their streak at Richmond starting this week?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, racing at this level and racing with this car, there's so much that goes into that. I don't feel like Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch have won the last four races because their equipment is terrible. It's because they've done a good job of bringing good equipment to the racetrack. Obviously they're on the same page with one another on the setups and things like that, no different than when my teammates find success I'm going to go and put the stuff that he's got in his race car, and if I don't like the way it's driving I'm going to learn how to drive it, that way I can have the same success because obviously that setup is proven.
There's a lot of that. You know, there's a lot of rhyme and reason of why people are winning races and when they get on a roll. The Roush organization, they struggled last year and found it at the end, and they've been able to continue that success on these intermediate racetracks. There's some reason behind that. It's because they've come up with a better package, and it's better than the competition right now.
...I guess just make sure when you do hit it you just scuff off of it and don't hit it very hard.
Q. With Darlington coming up, because it's such a unique track, is there anything in particular you recall about the first time that you went there to Darlington?
CLINT BOWYER: Oh, man. Just don't hit the wall. It's so easy to do. It's pretty much inevitable that you're going to hit that wall. But I guess just make sure when you do hit it you just scuff off of it and don't hit it very hard. But just a very, very challenging racetrack, probably one of the most demanding tracks that we go to as far as concentration, and having good grip with your race car goes a long way with that. But the way you drive that place probably takes the biggest role.
Q. You're just coming off of a weekend off, and you don't get very many during the NASCAR season. As far as the time off, does it help you a lot do you think, or what do you like to do most with your time off?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, it used to be we'd have five or six -- when I was running the Nationwide Series we'd have five or six weekends off. We don't have many now. I pretty well enjoy them and make sure that I do, go on a vacation or something like that. I used to take off and race a couple races, but heck, they're few and far between, and family is so important and hard to see anyway, it's fun to get away and enjoy something -- a change of scenery now and then.
Q. Next year actually with the season starting one week later, you'll actually have a longer off-season. Plus would you like to see more weekends off during the long season?
CLINT BOWYER: I would like to see more off weekends. You know, the biggest thing -- I don't like -- I'm not a big fan of the two off weekends being so early. I wish they were later in the season in the summer months where you could enjoy them and go on a vacation or do something. I mean, that one is so early in the season that you can't hardly enjoy it anyway, and basically there's nowhere to go that's any nicer than where you're at; just hang around the house. And if I'm going to do that I'd rather be at the racetrack.
Q. In the final race at Richmond in 2008 you and David Ragan were going for the final Chase berth and it got pretty intense at the end. What do you remember about that night, and how intense was it inside the car that night?
CLINT BOWYER: It was. I mean, such a prestigious thing. Very, very hard to be a part of, and man, it came down to like one position through pretty much the whole race, determining who's going to be in that Chase and who's not. We were battling side by side, and I think we actually got into each other one time off of 2. So it was a pretty wild, interesting night, and one that I'll never forget. I remember very, very well how difficult it was and how the whole race was. I mean, you just no matter what wanted to beat him, and he wasn't going away.
Q. Was there a lot of communication between you and your crew about where you stood in points and things like that?
CLINT BOWYER: It was pretty cool. I didn't need anybody to tell me where he was at. I was pretty well keeping on eye on him pretty well the whole race, whether I could see him in the mirror or a couple times he was in front of me. One time we actually took four tires and lost a ton of track position. He took two, and I was worried to death that I wasn't going to be able to get back up to him. It was pretty late in the race. But we were able to get back and catch up to him, and then from there when you couldn't see him in the mirror you'd look on the leaderboard in the infield or something like that and figure out where they were at.
Q. I want to go back two weeks to Talladega. You were obviously one of the strongest cars all day, and knowing how well you have run well in the recent past and the fact that we do go back to both Daytona and Talladega a little bit later in the year, do you enjoy this new style of two-by-two racing or are you excited to get it over with and move on to the next week?
CLINT BOWYER: No, I think it's a blast. It's challenging throughout the race, and it gives you -- it's interesting, gives you something else to do. Yeah, we were just praying when the wreck happened that you would either be in front of it or far enough behind it that you could get slowed down, and nine times out of ten that wasn't the case. You'd be caught up in it, and it's completely out of your hands, nowhere to go, and you'd get wiped out and that was that.
You can control so much more now with those -- with the two cars, whether you want to stay up front, you want to go to the back. If you go to the back you can pretty well with somebody's help get back up there and with the right decisions can put yourself back in position, as Jimmie did.
But I'm a fan of the way it is, and if the fans like it, which I hope they do, hopefully they'll keep it around.
Q. Two things for you: First is someone said that trying your win your second race is just as hard as the first to prove it wasn't a fluke. Can you take us back to when you won at Richmond in 2008 knowing how much you enjoy racing at Richmond?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, it was probably the biggest thing, and to be honest with you, it was a surprise. Kyle got into Dale Jr., and it opened the door up for me to win that race. Usually I don't ever get one -- the first race that I would say that I got handed to me. Usually, you know, you have a good feeling throughout the race, you have a good feeling the night before, things went your way, you were faster than the field, with 30 to go you were maybe a second ahead, and that's how the normal win happens is that you feel it, you know it, and you make it happen.
That one was just completely -- shocked me, and it was out of the blue, and it was one that was so much fun to celebrate because it was such a surprise.
Q. And you mentioned Kyle Busch. When Dale Jr. and Kyle Busch got together, and everybody knows what happened after that, do you feel like even now three years later, do you feel like your win is kind of overshadowed because everybody wants to talk about the fireworks that went down at the end of that race?
CLINT BOWYER: I don't care (laughing). All I know that -- I actually don't care. I know where that trophy is at, and that's the main goal there.
Q. There's been a lot of talk about how competitive it is this year, more green flags throughout the first eight races, record lead changes. From your perspective does it seem like it's as competitive as it's ever been in your six seasons and what tells you that from behind the wheel?
We're as competitive as we've been, and I feel like we can improve on some things and get us some more wins.
CLINT BOWYER: Yes, absolutely. Ever since we went to this car, it just became more and more and more competitive, almost by the week. You know, obviously people will say, Jimmie Johnson has won the last five, it can't be that competitive. Every year it's gotten harder and harder for him to win, and it's just like this season; I mean, there's so many things that are keeping -- drivers that are normally in the Chase and they're running well week in and week out, whether it be bad luck or another car is running better so it's harder to run inside that top 10, it's just so competitive right now that you're on edge the whole weekend, not just on race day, but practice is competitive, qualifying is competitive, happy hour is competitive. The race is so competitive -- pit road, we're starting to look in areas and do things that we've never done before to find that edge, and it's just because of the closeness of the race and the closeness of the cars, double-file restarts, the rule changes that NASCAR has put in place the last couple years.
I said it last year that I thought last year was the best racing since I've been in this sport, and this year has proven to be even better than last.
Q. And you talked earlier about how Roush-Fenway has improved this year. Where would you put Richard Childress Racing right now? Do you feel like you've improved over last year's resurgence and do you feel like you're up there with Hendrick and Gibbs right now?
CLINT BOWYER: I feel like we've picked up pretty much where we left off, and I would say that's pretty big considering we brought in another team. We weren't successful with that before. We've brought in another team, we've found success with it, and we're all working well together as one. Kevin has won twice, I've been right there a couple times, and things are good, they really are. We're as competitive as we've been, and I feel like we can improve on some things and get us some more wins.
Q. Since last week they announced Burton had re-signed, that kind of leaves you at RCR as the lone guy over there at RCR to re-sign for next year. I was wondering if you've made any progress on that in the last three months.
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, we haven't -- I've talked to Richard a couple times, and hopefully we're getting close object that. I've just been having fun at the racetrack, focusing on what I can do. I haven't won, but we've been running well. The last four races have been really solid for us. If you go have fun at the racetrack then I feel like the rest will come. We've been doing that and doing a good job at that, and hopefully we can get our sponsors locked in and get everything put in place and not have to worry about it.