Clint Bowyer has won two races and placed in the top five nine times thus far this season, but as he puts it, he still wants to “taste more blood.” Currently slotted in at seventh on the NASCAR playoff leaderboard, all Bowyer wanted was a chance in 2018, and he’s certainly got one now. Never a member of the Championship 4, Bowyer and his No. 14 Ford Fusion will motor onto Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth today, hell bent on getting it right and in doing so, going for his third win of the year and 11th of his career.
Q: One point you’ve kept going back to this year was that you wanted to be with a team and in a car where you had a genuine chance to win on any given Saturday or Sunday…
CLINT BOWYER: Absolutely. That’s exactly it. I not only wanted it, I needed it. My career needed it, you know what I mean? I was in a top team with Stewart-Haas Racing and it was time to perform. The No. 14 car is capable of performing, and we came out of the box this year with all four cars in the money. We finally got our win at Martinsville. That was just a huge relief for me. It was everything that a racer knows only a big win can bring. It really helped us. We left there and almost won at Dover. Then we went to Michigan, and got the job done again. The playoffs have been extremely competitive. Week in and week out, the pressure is there because everything is on the line to make these playoffs.
It’s so much fun to be under this kind of pressure again. It’s been a few years since I was able to do that. This whole thing has been, call it a breath of fresh air. Most people don’t like being under pressure and things like that, but for me it was instant energy; a shot in the arm. It’s been a lot of fun. Hopefully, it’s not done next weekend. We’ve got these playoffs and stages and rounds, and you have to give it all. You go to a three-round program, and you can’t have a weak link, and you can’t have a bad race. You get yourself behind with only two races to make up for it, you just can’t.
Q: You have spoken about 2018 being a season of rejuvenation for you. With two wins and 490 laps led, it truly has been, hasn’t it?
CB: Yeah, it’s been that shot in the arm that I’m talking about. It’s fun again. I don’t want people take that the wrong way, but I mean it. Racing is fun. You know, I didn’t always race for a living. I grew up racing for fun, and that has always been my way of having success. If I’m not having any fun, I’m not going to have any success in my race car. I’ve certainly had a blast at the racetrack this year. It’s one of those record years where you can’t wait to get to the next weekend. We’re here in Texas now. We didn’t have a great Martinsville like I thought we would, and like we did in the spring. Monday morning, you’re kind of pouting around, but by lunchtime on Monday it was like, ‘Alright damn it, let’s get back after it again. Let’s get to Texas and get the job done.’ The thing that I feel we showed throughout the year was our capabilities, and I felt like in those capabilities, we were part of that conversation of who could win this thing.
Q: These last two races before Homestead-Miami, are they free-for-all affairs? Can you have a strategy, or do you just go out there and wing it?
CB: We’re 40 points out or whatever; it’s not do-or-die time yet. The clock is ticking. We’re up against the clock, for sure. We’ve got to be able to come here to Texas and perform to our capabilities – again. That second place finish was the finish we needed to put ourselves right back in the money with three races left. We’ve got to do something like that again. We’ve got to make some big-time noise here in Texas, and things have got to fall our way. Obviously, a win is the easy answer, but I’m not to the point yet where I feel like we can’t point our way in, either. If we falter on the stage points in the first two stages at Texas, then I think it will be do-or-die time. A single-digit finish or even a top-five finish in the stages and at the finish, I think that would put us in a fight come Phoenix. But make no mistake, we’re all here to win, and that’s the easiest way to Homestead.
Q: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex have been the power trio of NASCAR this year. Do you see those three guys in the Championship 4 come Miami? And if so, can you beat them?
CB: I think so. Regular season has definitely painted a lot different picture than the playoffs have. A lot of things happen in the playoffs. Everybody always elevates their game, and this year it was certain that there were a few organizations that stood head and shoulders above the rest, but once we got to the playoffs a lot of the other teams caught up and really evened the playing field. As soon as that happened, the big three haven’t made near as much noise within these playoffs than they did in the regular season. Man, they were rattling them off. If it wasn’t every win, it was every other win from one of the three. Can they be beat? Yes. Will they be beat? Time will tell. But I do believe that they are the guys to beat. If you want to win the championship you have to go through all three of them.
Q: You haven’t been to the Championship 4 before, and you strike me as a game day guy…
CB: Pressure is fun, you know what I mean? And for me, it keeps me starving and keeps me focused on the task at hand. Not that I get distracted or anything, but anybody knows me probably understands what I’m saying. When that pressure is on the line, you don’t have time for anything else. All of your focus is on that, and it has always been a positive outcome for me when that’s the case.
Q: How long do you see yourself racing?
CB: It’s always been fun, and I don’t know how I could ever imagine it not being fun. As long as I can be an asset and can do a good job for the race team and sponsors and partners and everything else, I love it. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. I had a day job, and I punched a time card, and it sucked. I didn’t like it. I never thought of this as work, and it has always been a lot of fun and a pleasure to get to do. As long as I keep doing it and be successful doing it, I’ll be doing it.