CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Benefitting Avon Foundation for Women Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
How does it feel to be back at your 'home' track and in the Chase? "Certainly coming home -- fresh off a victory at Charlotte was really, really special -- but more importantly worked hard in testing and I think our car is pretty good. It's going to be interesting to see how this thing shakes out. There's a lot of uncertainties right now. Seems like everybody got their cars comfortable. Just like at Michigan and anywhere else we have these hard tires and new repave -- they just keep getting faster and faster and faster with every run, and then he put tires on it and it changes your whole game and your back to miserable again. That'll get better -- that gap will kind of narrow up and go away as the weekend goes and we burn more rubber into the race track. But, for right now, it was pretty interesting in the test. It was kind of a miserable test really. Unfortunately it rained the first day -- most of the test out. And then the second day we had oil downs about every 15 minutes, so not a lot of testing, but it was the same for everybody. Our car was turning good. I felt like we were able to capitalize on Mark (Martin) being here with the tire test and kind of use that to our advantage. Just built much of a notebook as you can going into the race. Changed a lot of things. Made a lot of runs over the last couple days. Just hopefully we got a great game plan going into today's practice. Qualifying is going to be so important being up in clean air. It's going to be super hard to pass. So, just got to have it all line up again."
Did having an extra day to celebrate your Charlotte win mean anything? "Here's the thing. With such a new team, and a new organization -- this is new success for all of us and especially MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing). It's a lot of fun to be able to see them enjoy that and I think that it's important for them to soak that in and really understand what victory is all about and how hard it is. It's extremely hard to win these races. And to be able to win three of them here -- our first year together -- is huge. So I think it's important to make sure that your guys take the time and soak it in and enjoy it. If you don't, you'll regret it."
Do you get enough respect as a title-contender? "As far as respect, whatever else, I don't care. That doesn't drive me. Enjoying the moment and being in victory lane with those group of guys -- that's what drivers me. That's so much fun to be there. That's what everybody goes to the track for -- and it's to see those faces that have been trying so hard over the years to be in victory lane and enjoying that. It doesn't get any better than that."
Is it easy to get down if you don't qualify well for this race? "Going back to racing -- it is important, but I think that you can't get hung up on it and you can't get down if you don't get qualified good. This race is going to be shook up a thousand times. Every time you pit people are going to take no tires, people are going to take two tires, and eventually you're going to have to take four tires and lose your track position and then wait for the next cycle to come around. It's just going to be a chess match, especially on the crew chiefs' side of things -- the whole race. I think you're just going to have to start setting yourself up two or three runs to go to make sure that you're on that last pit stop and not have to take tires and do the things it takes to win this thing. It's going to be important to play your cards right and make sure you have good strategy and be in the right position at the end. I don't think you can get hung up too much on qualifying, but nonetheless, you need to get qualified good for pit road. That seems to be so important these days -- if you have a good enough pit stall, you can put four (tires) on the same time it takes another team to put two (tires) on. It's important to have that number one stall."
How has Scott Miller helped with the turnaround at Michael Waltrip Racing? "Scott Miller (MWR competition direction) -- just like I did -- we both walked into a good situation. It wasn't he or I or any one person that turned the thing around. It was just bits and pieces here and there in the whole organization. They had a lot of depth -- a lot of organization already. It just seemed like he came in and he's got an understanding of keeping an eye on the ball and following that goal and keeping everything on track. I just think he does a good job of that. People get to racing themselves and get grouchy. This is a tough schedule. I can't imagine -- we at least get time to wind down usually on a Monday morning or something like that. Them guys have to be back at work at 7:00 AM and working. You know their wives are yelling at them. It's unbelievable to think what them families go through. To keep the wheels on the bus, so to speak, is pretty important. He does a good job of that. He does a good job of just managing the crew chiefs, managing our R&D (research and development) -- there's constant things going on and for improvements on into the future, you have to do that. This sport seems like if you lay down and take a break for a week, you're three weeks behind. It's unbelievable how fast things advance. If you don't have a game plan and have somebody in place to orchestrate all of that you're going to get behind, and Scott Miller is our guy for that."
Would you ever step away from the race car during the Chase like Dale Earnhardt Jr. just did? "I don't know. It depends. (Dale Earnhardt) Junior -- everybody knows Junior. That man has been in every Cup race that I've ever been in. He didn't want to get out of that car. There was something going on and something that he felt that wasn't right. Any human being is going to take that to the bank and understand what is going on and at least seek out help. If you don't feel right and you have symptoms that you're not comfortable with, you're going 200 miles per hour on a race track. Forget everybody else and endangering them -- How about yourself? You don't want to go out there and get hurt and ruin your career. There's so many people -- especially a guy like Junior. Look at the sponsors, the money, the businesses that count on him to be healthy. It goes way farther than just being competitive and what you see on Sunday. There's a lot of people and a lot of lives that depend on him. I'm going to have a hell of a time passing a baseline test anyway. Any doctor is bound to have a lot of trouble figuring out what's wrong with me."
What would it take for you to step out of the race car? "Maybe a bullet. If they could patch that up then I may go on. You don't get this opportunity in life very often. You've worked your whole year -- this is a year's worth of work that goes into these last five races. It would be hard to be able to think about pulling yourself out. It just depends. There's so many different scenarios, but at the end of the day, it comes down to safety and there are a lot of people's lives that depend on him (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) being healthy and not only for this five races, but for many years to come."
Can your team contend for the championship? "Here's the thing, five races -- that's a lot of racing. There's a tremendous amount of racing left. When you think about it, man, there's only five races left, but at the end of the day that's a lot of racing. Two short tracks -- this track here (Kansas). This is going to be a wild card race. Just like I said, track position and playing your cards right -- no tires, fuel only, two tires, four tires, when to do that, how to set yourself up for the end if it comes down to fuel mileage or whatever it comes down to. You're going to have to play your cards right and have a little bit of luck to see it through. I saw a hell of a wreck yesterday and there could be some cautions in this race. If you get somebody loose and take the air off of them here, it just seems like the thing has so much grip and you're locked down the minute it gets up on top of the race track that you can't catch it, it just jumps out from underneath of you. It's crazy how fast that happens. You're literally still wide open and you're sideways going, 'Uh oh.' You haven't even lifted yet. You know you're in a world of hurt. You never know what's going to happen -- so 28 points out -- it's a lot better than where we were leaving Talladega. I'm excited, pumped up and I know the guys are. They're doing a good job. They are bringing good race cars and we're doing everything we can do. This is pretty neat to be racing the teams and the caliber of programs that we're racing against and running with them. Proud."
Source: Toyota Motorsports