Visit to a Kansas Dirt Track Started Clint Bowyer's Journey to NASCAR Busch Series Stardom CONCORD, N.C. (Oct. 3, 2005) - Heading into the Oct. 14 Dollar General 300 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, 26-year-old Clint Bowyer is locked in a torrid...
Visit to a Kansas Dirt Track Started Clint Bowyer's
Journey to NASCAR Busch Series Stardom
CONCORD, N.C. (Oct. 3, 2005) - Heading into the Oct. 14 Dollar General 300 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, 26-year-old Clint Bowyer is locked in a torrid battle with defending champion Martin Truex Jr. for the NASCAR Busch Series title.
Bowyer has steadily closed the point gap on Truex over the last month and is in position to claim the championship in his first full season of Busch Series competition. The title would be the latest, and most prestigious, accomplishment in a unique journey that began 10 years ago when Bowyer visited a small dirt track.
"When I was 16 years old, I was struggling with motocross a little bit and trying to decide whether I wanted to go pro," said Bowyer who, at the time, was a prolific winner in the amateur motocross ranks. "I was at the age where I needed to start turning pro.
"Then, I went to a little dirt track, a quarter-mile speedway in Humboldt, Kan., and fell in love with it.
"I went back home, got a dirt car and three weeks later we were racing," Bowyer continued. "It was just something that looked like fun, just a hobby. My family has always been in racing, that's what we did together. We just started racing throughout the Midwest and having fun. Then I got into an IMCA Modified and ran pretty well.
"Before you know it, we started winning championships and a lot of races. Within two or three years, I'd won six track championships and a regional championship."
A native of Emporia, Kan., Bowyer began racing dirt bikes when he was 5 and followed his older brother into motocross. In nine years of motocross competition, he collected more than 200 victories and a number of championships.
His first race on four wheels came in the Pony Stock class at Thunderhill Speedway in Mayetta, Kan. Bowyer steadily climbed through the four-wheeled ranks and by 2000 was winning Modified races and claiming titles.
His 2002 season included Modified track championships on the dirt at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas and on the pavement at I-70 Speedway in Missouri. His amazing effort earned him the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series Midwest Region championship and he finished second in the national point standings.
In just three years, Bowyer had earned six championships while winning 40 races on both dirt and asphalt.
"When I won that regional championship, it kind of opened my eyes that maybe there would be a future for me in auto racing," Bowyer said.
In 2003, Bowyer raced Late Models in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest division and made a pair of ARCA RE/MAX Series starts.
He led the most laps and finished second in his ARCA stock car debut at Nashville Superspeedway. His second ARCA start was at Lowe's Motor Speedway where team owner Richard Childress was watching.
Bowyer started 10th and finished 20th that October night, but Childress was so impressed that about a month later he decided to call the young racer. Bowyer was working in the body shop of a Ford dealership when his phone rang.
"I thought it was somebody playing around with me," Bowyer said. "But it was his (Childress') secretary and she put him on. You can't mistake Childress' voice. I'm just thankful for that phone call because it changed my life. I've been really fortunate to catch the eye of someone like Richard Childress. To be hired by a top team like that is everything these days."
"He reminds me of somebody I used to know really, really well," said Childress, who won six NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championships fielding Chevrolets for Dale Earnhardt. "Bowyer's an old dirt-track racer, he loves to race and he don't give up. He stands on the gas every lap.
"He's smart. He knows how to race and I just like his attitude. Some of your best drivers know how to drive dirt."
Bowyer's transition to the NASCAR Busch Series was a slow one, as Childress didn't want to rush. Splitting time in the No. 21 Reese's Chevrolet with NEXTEL Cup regular Kevin Harvick, Bowyer made 14 starts and recorded four top-five and seven top-10 finishes during the 2004 season.
It was enough for Childress to know Bowyer was ready to tackle the full schedule, and he threw him the keys to the No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet.
"It's exactly what I needed," Bowyer said. "Part-time is a lot of pressure. When you're sharing a car with a driver like Kevin Harvick who puts it in the top-five every time he's in it and you're running 15th, the eyes are on you wondering why.
"Richard was an understanding guy about the whole thing and he had a lot of confidence in me. It was a rocky road last year; there were highs and lows. Luckily there were enough highs that he decided to put me in a full-time ride," Bowyer continued. "Bringing Gil Martin in to be my crew chief has sped up my learning curve so much. Having an experienced crew chief like that means all the difference in the world to a young driver that doesn't know much about the cars."
There were times in 2004 when Bowyer had to ask which drivers he needed to worry about, since he had been so busy with his racing career that he had never watched Busch Series races on television. So it's rather amazing that a year later he is a Busch Series race winner and championship contender.
"I won a lot of championships and a lot of races, but to be able to win a race at this level, I think it was a long time coming," Bowyer said about his victory earlier this season at Nashville Superspeedway. "There's so much that goes into it. You have to make the right calls and experience makes those calls. Martin's experience is why we won that race."
Bowyer would likely be the first to say it's a good thing he's been able to continue his winning ways in the NASCR Busch Series because racing is all he truly knows.
"I'm just a simple, ordinary guy. I like racing," he said. "I'm just a racer. That's what I grew up doing. That's all I've ever done."
Tickets for the Dollar General 300 NASCAR Busch Series race on Friday night, Oct. 14, start at just $17 and can be obtained online at www.lowesmotorspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-455-FANS.