Thursday, June 5, 2008 Toyota/Save Mart 350 Teleconference Clint Bowyer (Driver of the No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet) Clint Bowyer took part in a teleconference today with Northern California media members in advance of the Toyota/Save Mart...
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Toyota/Save Mart 350 Teleconference
Clint Bowyer (Driver of the No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet)
Clint Bowyer took part in a teleconference today with Northern California media members in advance of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, June 20-22. A transcript of the teleconference is below.
Clint, thanks so much for joining us today. Last year was just your second visit to Infineon Raceway, and you earned a fourth place finish. Normally it takes several years to get a finish that good. How were you able to do that, and what are your thoughts leading into this race weekend?
CB: Well, I mean we just kind of approached it like we do all road courses. Fuel mileage seems to always be the thing on a road course and we definitely worked on fuel mileage throughout practice. We pulled jet out of the carburetor and detuned the motor, and it was a little bit slow and sluggish racing, but it lasted a lot longer than the rest and we were able to get a good finish. The only thing they see is the finish and we were able to stretch the fuel out, and do a pretty good pace and get a good finish.
Do you like road course racing?
CB: I do. It's challenging and we don't get a chance to do it very often. I really like Infineon. Watkins Glen is a little bit different animal. Infineon is technical and it has elevation changes and there's a lot of different things we don't get to do week in and week out on the Sprint Cup Series. Watkins Glen is a lot faster, a lot more balls to the wall, it's just a lot different animal. I really like Sonoma. I've always liked going out there, obviously it's beautiful country. For me, racing both series is tough because you're down on sleep when you get there and a little cranky and miserable. But, we always seem to have a good car and I enjoy the track, so that makes it a lot better.
I know when you start out racing, you're on your on and trying to win. What's different about racing in NASCAR with a team? Is it something you have to get used to?
CB: I think it is. It seems like you have to have a multi-car teams to be successful in this sport. It takes a lot of resources, and to get the most resources you have more cars out there, so in turn you have a lot more resources to pull from, so that's a big advantage. It probably becomes more of an issue when you can help each other on super-speedways like Talladega and Daytona when you're able to push each other and work together or push somebody by a faster car. This year at Daytona, (Jeff) Burton and I hooked up and passed a car that we couldn't have passed ourselves. That's something where teammates can really help each other. Week in and week out, just like I was talking about fuel mileage a at a place like Sonoma, we can all three go in a different direction to get the best fuel mileage and come up with a common goal that we can all use and put to good use throughout the race. Teammates are definitely a big part of this sport anymore, and we've got three good teams right now at RCR.
You're competing at both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide events at Infineon and Milwaukee. Driving the two races at very different tracks, very far apart, what sort of schedule are you on?
CB: It's hell. There is no way of getting around it. It's tough. It's the worst one by far, as far as the distance you have to travel and the hours you have to put in. By that weekend, I've already done it twice. We've been to this weekend at Pocono and Nashville, next weekend at Michigan and Kentucky, then Milwaukee and Infineon. It takes away from both is what it does. We can't go practice the car at Milwaukee. We make qualifying if we're lucky, and you get two laps on the track. If not, you have to go to the back and the first lap on the track is the drop of the green flag. Because of that, it takes away from practice at Infineon, too, and that's well-needed practice because we don't get a chance to race road courses very often and when you do you need all the track time you can get. That's the worst one in terms of the strain it puts on drivers and the lack of time you get in the race car. You don't quite get to give each team 100% and that's just one of the sacrifices you have to make.
You've come up the old-fashioned way through the weekly series and building up through Nationwide and now the Cup Series. What's been the biggest change in you as a driver?
CB: Just learning. I think when Richard (Childress) hired me, I was way behind. I'd only had about a year and half experience on asphalt, period, and probably 35 races on asphalt ever, and I was just way behind. There were guys who grew up, even the dirt racers were racing on asphalt for three or four years before a Cup owner would take a chance on them. I was fortunate to be given a chance and I was fortunate to have an owner that realized my situation and my potential, and was able to be patient and give me time on that. As everyone's seen with younger drivers, they get one or two chances and if you don't perform, you're out and you miss your opportunity before you really saw 100 percent of your potential. It was the right situation and Richard was a smart enough owner to know that I was behind on experience and was able to be patient and have our sponsors be patient while I learned.
Before they went to the new car there was a distinctly separate road course car. With the current car, can you convert any other cars for these races, or is it a separate road course car?
CB: In theory, you can run them on anything, run them on Daytona, run them at California, you can run them at a bull ring and then you can run them on the road courses. That's not always the case. The brake package on a road course is different. As far as the main cage and everything, it's basically the same frame and the same bodies at every track. They can fudge them a bit, but not nearly as much as they used to. I think for the most part you had to, I think you could, and that's how you see these smaller, under-funded teams running better because of the change in the car. You hear us complain about the car. By no means is the car a huge mistake, there's just some fine tuning that could make the racing better for the fans. Bottom line, that's what it's all about.
So, is it a road course-specific car?
CB: It will be, but the back-up car won't be. The back-up will be a car that we've probably run before on a mile-and-a-half race track.
What's your biggest challenge coming in to Infineon, and how is your driving different than at other tracks?
CB: There are several challenges. The biggest one is not getting an opportunity to run on that type of track very often. That's a challenge for everybody, but especially because this is my third time and Jeff Gordon's 33rd time being there or something. You always seem like you're behind until you get going at these tracks for a few years. Aside from that is working on fuel mileage and things that, that are important aspects of this type of racing.
What about your driving? How is it different?
CB: Your driving is way different. Obviously turning right is the biggest thing. We turn left everywhere, and then you get to a track where you have to turn right, so the setups are way different, braking is very, very important, downshifting, and being good on the gearbox are all a big part of road course racing. You've got to be good on the brakes, and you've got to be good on your equipment. You can't over-rev the motor downshifting, you've got to be smooth downshifting, you can't miss shifts and tear your transmission up and your motor and your equipment up before you get to the finish.
NASCAR has a history of fans loving to boo drivers. Is it important to this sport that there's always someone the fans can dislike?
CB: It's the same way with racing in general or any kind of sport. Everybody loves the winner until they win too much, and then they don't like them anymore. The guys who have been very successful have seen both sides. Jeff Gordon, you either love him or hate him, but bottom line you respect him. There's a big difference between a guy like Jeff Gordon and a guy like Kyle Busch. Kyle Busch is winning races and he's on top, but there's not that love-hate relationship. I think it has nothing to do with his performance on the track. People don't respect him because of the things he does when he gets out of the race car.
Kyle says people misunderstand him, but he doesn't always act that way. Does he?
CB: No, everybody always asks what people are like at the racetrack. Everybody always asks you that. My answer is always what you see is what you get. It's no different -- they're people. What you see on TV, you can hide yourself for a while, but your true colors are going to come out and shine. Unfortunately, you probably see that a little more with racers because of them being on TV and things. But, sooner or later, the true person is going to come out.
It's fun for people to find someone to boo. Does it come pretty easy for NASCAR fans to find someone?
CB: I think it's pretty easy. That's what makes this sport what it is -- the personalities. That's what separates this sport from other sports is that you're able to get so much closer to these personalities. There are a lot fewer people in this sport, there are only 43, whereas football and baseball there are hundreds. You see a lot more of the personalities of the drivers in this sport. I think it's a good thing about our sport that it's so fan friendly and they can get that close to the action.