Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Impala SS, met with members of the media and discussed his outlook for Martinsville, chasing Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson for the championship, people expecting him to falter, overcoming the hurdles of racing...
Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Impala SS, met with members of the media and discussed his outlook for Martinsville, chasing Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson for the championship, people expecting him to falter, overcoming the hurdles of racing at Talladega and Lowe's, what might be missing to compete with the Hendrick cars, on being the driver that could save the Chase from being a Hendrick affair, if he responds well to pressure, teammates competing for the championship, progress with the Impala SS since the spring race at Martinsville, running the outside line at Atlanta and if you have to settle for second sometimes given the level of competition in the Nextel Cup Series.
ON HIS OUTLOOK FOR MARTINSVILLE: "I think it's going to rain today. Hopefully it does. I don't qualify very good here so I'm looking forward to starting third if it continues to rain - that wouldn't be bad. Nonetheless I'm looking forward to the challenge. We had a strong run here in the spring race and looking forward to capitalizing on that. We've improved everywhere else in the latter part of the year and I think we can do the same right here."
WHAT'S MORE DAUNTING - THE NUMBER OF POINTS OR THE FACT THAT IT'S JEFF GORDON AND JIMMIE JOHNSON THAT ARE AHEAD OF YOU IN THE POINTS? "It's definitely the fact that it's two proven race winners and champions. It's not a back marker that you're trying to chase down, it's Jeff Gordon, and it's not only Jeff Gordon of two years ago where he was a top 10 car, it's Jeff Gordon where he's a top three car about every weekend so we know we got to pick up our game. Even if we do that and win two or three more races this year it's still going to take some bad luck on their side. If you win they're going to finish second or third. They're just that good right now but we have to be that good too and hopefully if they slip up and stub their toe or something, we have to be there for the taking and racing as hard as we can week in and week out. That's all we can do."
ON PEOPLE EXPECTING HIM TO STUMBLE: "That's fuel for the fire. That's all it is. You sit down in your motorhome, watch TV and the commercials come on - come watch Tony Stewart chase down Jeff Gordon for the championship. You're like 'Man!' Then it wasn't any different when we were trying to make the Chase. Everybody said we were the team that backed into the Chase just because we hadn't won a race and we were ninth not 12th. There were three cars behind us. Like I said, that's just fuel for the fire. It makes you want to do good even more so I like it. Keep it up."
ON CLEARING TWO MAJOR HURDLES AFTER RACING AT TALLADEGA AND LOWE'S AND IF HE FEELS RELIEF NOW: "You know going into those races, definitely we were thinking and I was thinking the same thing, if we could just make it through those and then this week I'm thinking 'Man, now Martinsville. If I can just make it through Martinsville.' Again, this is a track where anything can happen. There's just no room and if there's a pile up in front of you you might get in it. But you can only control what you can control and try to qualify good, be up front, be running up with the good cars and we need to lead laps, hopefully the most laps, and we have to win races to be able to run these guys down or even to be able to capitalize if they do have trouble. Right now it'd take a major mishap on their part so we could even get in the points lead. Every week is a challenge and I look forward to it. It's so much fun just to be able to see how hard that we can push ourselves as a race team. It's only our second year. I don't want to push too hard and make mistakes but this is definitely our time to prove not only to ourselves but everybody else what we're made of."
YOU SAID LAST WEEK YOU DIDN'T HAVE THE EQUIPMENT TO KEEP UP WITH HENDRICK. WHAT'S MISSING THERE? YOUR BOSS HAS WON SIX CHAMPIONSHIPS. WHAT ADVICE HAS HE GIVEN YOU FOR THESE LAST FIVE RACES? "I don't want to take anything away.I didn't mean that negatively towards our group. We're obviously not running at their level, haven't been all season. I definitely think in the last few races we all knew we had to pick up our program and we've been able to do that and we're racing right there with them, leading laps and going back and forth from track position with Jeff and Jimmie. Definitely it's fun to be able to race against that caliber of teams with those guys. Like I said, we knew that we had to step up our game in a big way and it's just so much fun to see how everybody's done that on our race team and our organization. Everything from the engine program to fab. We built a car, went and tested and put so much emphasis on Charlotte because we knew that was going to be one of the race tracks where it hadn't been the best track for us and just very proud of the effort that we all put into it. We went the extra mile and it paid off.
"He's won championships. He's trying to push everybody as hard as he can on his end of it so we do have equipment good enough to compete with those guys. There's no question, I think we can win this championship against those cars, we just have to be better. We have to do better in every aspect of our programs and our work ethic. We just have to work harder period. I think it's no different racing now in the Nextel Cup racing for a championship as it was racing in the weekly level. The teams that win championships and win races, it's no fluke. They just work harder than the rest."
ARE YOU THE ODD MAD OUT IN THIS BIG THREE OR ARE YOU THE ODD MAN IN IN A REAL NEAT POSITION WHO COULD POSSIBLY CAPITALIZE AND TAKE THIS CHAMPIONSHIP? "In my mind and our race team's mind we're definitely not the odd man out. We're close enough we can win this thing. It's so, so strange how you're mindset can change from one race - bottom line New Hampshire. Starting the Chase we didn't know what to expect. I didn't know where to set my goals. I wanted to be hopefully finishing in the top five. I thought that would be good for us. If we could finish in the top five this year, our second year, out in the Chase, that'd be a successful year. We'd won a race. We sat on two poles. I'd be content with that year but that first win changes everything. You go from maybe a 10th place so you can go to the banquet and we've won two poles to hey, we're in contention for a championship and we're going to be greedy and go after it."
ON BEING THE MAN THAT COULD SAVE THE CHASE AND KEEP IT FROM BEING A HENDRICK AFFAIR: "Well I don't know about saving the Chase or saving anybody's day. It's saving my day, putting food on my table. It's so exciting to be in this situation, to have the attention, be in the spotlight. I'm not one that soaks it up and really likes it. I like going about my business and going out and trying to win races and compete for this championship and not have all that pressure. I'm used to if you screw up (you) listen to the old man for 45 minutes on the way home and get out and go about your week, you know go back to work. Now there's a lot of people you have to answer to - the media, your sponsors, your car owner, your crew chief, your crew members. But like I say, I'm really enjoying our situation where we're at. It's fun. I can't wait to get to the next race and see the next challenge ahead. I'm really proud of the way we've been able to step up our program. It's neat to see how far we've come in just a few races."
ON THINKING ABOUT BAD LUCK OTHER TEAMMATES MIGHT HAVE DURING THE RACES: "Well you definitely do. You're aware of them but you can't worry about those things. You have no idea when it's coming and up until Talladega when everybody was blowing up, then we had to try to do, the worry was on. We had to try to do whatever we could do to make sure that that engine lasted whatever that was - getting out of the pack, getting the RPMs down, pulling all the tape off and cooling it down. It didn't suck up worth a darn at the end and we didn't finish good but it was a lot better than heading home early. Those are the things that I feel like when the worry's on and you can still control it a little bit .But as far as Kevin Harvick having flat tires and things like that, you can do nothing more than just laugh about, put it behind you and work harder next week."
THROUGHOUT YOUR RACING CAREER HAVE YOU BEEN THE KIND OF GUY THAT REALLY RESPONDS TO PRESSURE? "I just enjoy it. I like the pressure. You're seeing what you're made out of it. It's so much fun to be in that situation, not only yourself but everybody around you. We're all forced in this situation now and we've got to focus and work hard. There's probably nobody on my team anymore that's staying out late and having fun and I know my life's changed just in the last month and a half. The fun's over. I've quit racing dirt. I have two races off of dirt. Everybody (who) knows me (knows) I'm pretty pissed off about that (laughs). You owe it to your guys and you owe it to everybody to try to do everything you could possibly do in your power to try to win this thing for them and they're doing the same thing."
HOW DIFFICULT DO YOU THINK IT IS FOR JEFF GORDON AND JIMMIE JOHNSON TO BATTLE EACH OTHER FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP YET MAINTAIN THEIR FRIENDSHIP AND MAINTAIN THEIR TEAMMATE RELATIONSHIP OFF THE TRACK? "I think it has to be extremely hard. I mean there's a lot of egos right there and there should be. They both deserve the credit and deserve to have that ego and that mentality of 'Hey, I'm the best.' Both of them have won championships. Both of them have won a ton of races and (are) very competitive and you can bet your butt that they want to beat each other more than anybody else on that race track. I promise you Jimmie Johnson wants to beat Jeff Gordon and Jeff Gordon wants to beat Jimmie Johnson. I'm sure that's a constant headache on Rick Hendrick's part but bottom line is you couldn't be in a better situation for him and all those guys. I'd like to be battling Jeff Burton for a championship at the end. I'd love that. Nonetheless, I hope they get mad at each other. Maybe they'll start wrecking each other (laughs)."
HOW FAR HAVE YOU COME WITH THE NEW GENERATION RACE CAR SINCE THE LAST TIME YOU VISITED MARTINSVILLE? "I think we've come a long way. Going into the Chase.I don't think it's a fluke that we started this Chase and these Car of Tomorrow races with a bang. I really think we had a long of things that we were wanting to try and were reluctant to do because if it didn't work and we couldn't afford a disastrous day, a 30th-place finish and our trick of the week didn't work. We just flat out couldn't afford that, couldn't afford to take that chance of missing the Chase but once we were in it we didn't have anything to lose. We were 12th. We couldn't possibly be 13th and we had to make some big gains and we were able to try those things that they were wanting try and sure enough they worked. I'm excited about here. I'm excited about Phoenix. We went and tested St. Louis this week and it's funny when you show up there, I didn't even know..here's the 48, the 9 and the 19. So the same worry's on them and they're work ethic is definitely there as well."
ON SEEING A LOT OF CLOSE FINISHES AT ATLANTA AND THE DRIVER ON THE HIGH SIDE ALWAYS COMING OUT ON TOP. IS ATLANTA A TRACK THAT YOU WOULD SET UP TO RUN ON THE OUTSIDE OR DOES IT JUST SORT OF HAPPEN THAT WAY? "I've always said, these races nine times out of 10, they're won the bottom. The car that's diggin' on the bottom and running the fastest laps are on the bottom nine times out of 10. Now come towards the end, you can get such a strong run running up high that you can suck right around them because you get such a strong run up off but typically any of these guys you see running outside, they'll start up here and nine times out of 10 they flat side their right side and they're out of contention by the end of the race. I've watched it time and time again. I'll get up there and things will feel really good and next thing you know you're getting a little more greedy and a little more greedy - 'keep it up, lap times are good, keep it up' - and they coach you right into the fence. The outside is definitely fast and productive at times but you got to be really careful with it because it can bite you."
IN TWO YEARS IN THE NEXTEL CUP WITH THIS LEVEL OF COMPETITION, HAVE YOU LEARNED TO ACCEPT THAT IF SECOND IS THE BEST YOU CAN DO THAT'S A VICTORY? "Yeah and that's the hardest thing about racing at this level that it is to take to a race car driver because people (who do) any kind of racing, it doesn't matter what it is, to me it doesn't matter what sport it is - confidence is everything. If you have confidence knowing that you're going to go to that track and kick their butt that week or that ball field and whip their butt, you're going to go out there and do it. Getting that win was exactly what our team needed. I knew it, confidence wise for myself. I knew it for my chew chief all the way down to our over the wall crew members. There's that cocky side of you that you have to have to be successful in any kind of sport that we were missing. I guess we were starting to settle in for second (being) just OK and it's not and I don't think in two years time. I think the day that you lose that and you go to the race track thinking if we can get a top five this week that'll be OK, that would be a like win. You can't have that , not racing for championships and not wanting to be the best."
-credit: gm racing