Clint Bowyer doesn’t care what you think.
OK, maybe the Stewart-Haas Racing driver might care whether you think he represents himself and the sport well or comes across as someone you’d love to have a beer with. But when it comes to debate on what he has or hasn’t done in his career, Bowyer doesn’t care about the outside pressure and expectations.
No one wants Clint Bowyer to win more than Bowyer himself.
“Once you’ve won and once you’ve proven you can be in victory lane, once you’ve made the playoffs, once you’ve run up through them in the playoffs and contended for a championship, once you’ve done those things … that’s not where the pressure is,” Bowyer told RACER this week. “The pressure then is to be able to line yourself up with the right people that can make you be your best.”
In typical Bowyer fashion, he had just the right way of getting his point across. In this conversation, he used the example of his beloved Kansas City Chiefs, who recently put up a losing effort in the AFC Championship Game.
Regardless of the result, it was the “baddest” Chiefs team the area had seen in a long time. Bowyer called Patrick Mahomes the “best damn quarterback” ever seen, as the MVP candidate set the KC record for passing yards in a season and joined Peyton Manning as the second NFL player to throw for 50 TDs and 5,000 passing yards in a single season. The point of saying all this was if one were to take Mahomes or wide receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce and even head coach Andy Reid out of the equation, what’s left is not the Kansas City Chiefs everyone saw this year.
“I think that’s a prime example,” said Bowyer. “You line it all up, get the stars aligned correctly, get the puzzle together, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. I’ve had a few times and I haven’t had it a few times. That’s the tricky part about our business – it’s all about people and the people you set yourself up with. That’s where you’re going to find success and that’s where the pressure comes from with you. That’s what I think about, what I worry about. It’s all about people.”
Bowyer had the people and the pieces to get it done in 2018. Stewart-Haas Racing as a company was dominant with 12 wins across its four teams. In the postseason, Bowyer made it to the Round of 8 before being knocked from title contention in the final elimination race at ISM Raceway.
On his way to finishing 12th in the championship standings, he did break a winless drought dating back to 2012. Bowyer went to victory lane twice in 2018 at Martinsville and Michigan.
The hard part is remaining a consistent winner by going into a new season with the same results. Not since the 2010-12 seasons has Bowyer had a winning streak span multiple seasons. Before last year, 2012 had also been the last time he’d won multiple races in a year.
“That’s tough, and again you asked where the pressure comes from or whatever else, I was worried that I’d never get that opportunity to be in equipment that I knew could get the job done, and I got it with Stewart-Haas Racing,” he said. “Tony [Stewart] put me in that 14 car and Mike [Bugarewicz, crew chief] and everybody that works on that car, they’re the total package. Stewart-Haas Racing last year was the total package. We took care of business each and every week; we were the organization to beat each and every week as we went through the season. Doug Yates and his program were the engines to beat. Ford … was the manufacturer to beat.
“Now, no different than any other team in any other sport, it’s hard to stay on top, and we’ve got to work even harder to be able to do that again and back that up, have that performance that we had.”
Doing that will require one thing: Figuring out the new rules package.
“That’s what everybody is focusing on,” Bowyer said. “It’s very, very important to go out here next week and have a test that’s worthwhile for not only me and my 14 car, but my three other teammates. We’re all going to benefit from the test here and formulate our game plan as we go through the West Coast swing off what we’re going experience out here at this test.”
A two-day organizational test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will take place Jan. 31-February 1 with Bowyer representing SHR. Fourteen drivers are expected to participate in the test.