‘A Perfect Fit’: Bowyer Focuses on Driving Before Broadcasting
Clint Bowyer doesn’t know what his future holds, but one thing is certain: He’ll continue to thrill fans whether he’s sitting behind the wheel of a race car or in front of a camera.
One of NASCAR’s most entertaining personalities, Bowyer – in his fourth season with Stewart-Haas Racing – will be a free agent when the NASCAR Cup Series season concludes. Will he return to Stewart-Haas and add to his win count, which reached 10 with his most recent triumph in 2018? Will he join Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in hanging up the helmet for a cushy announcing job, like the part-time gig FOX Sports gave Bowyer in February?
As outgoing and gregarious as Bowyer is around media and fans, the 41-year-old veteran of 16 seasons isn’t one to look too far into the future. There will be plenty of time for that as the season winds to a close.
“I’ve been talking to partners and things like that,” Bowyer said. “I’ve got to do a better job inside the race car. We’ve got to get the No. 14 car back up front where it belongs. It doesn’t matter what you do outside the car – if you don’t take care of business inside the car, you don’t have any business being in any of them.”
No one can call Bowyer’s 2020 season a failure by any means: one pole, two top-five finishes and seven top-10 results put Bowyer 14th in NASCAR’s playoff grid at the end of the regular season. In Bowyer’s eyes, though, there’s always more that can be done. If the car isn’t quite fast enough to win on merit, Bowyer and crew chief Johnny Klausmeier can’t be afraid to take a chance that can pay dividends.
Such risk-taking helped Bowyer coast – literally – into Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Victory Lane eight years ago, when the then-Michael Waltrip Racing driver stretched his fuel mileage just enough to outlast Denny Hamlin and win Charlotte’s Bank of America-sponsored, 500-mile fall race.
Since the Bank of America ROVAL™ 400 debuted in 2018, Bowyer has come oh-so-close to taking the checkered flag at America’s Home for Racing.
The Emporia, Kansas, native brought his No. 14 Ford home third in the inaugural Bank of America ROVAL™ 400 and backed it up with a fourth-place result in last year’s event. Bowyer’s 3.5 average finish puts him level with Chase Elliott for the NASCAR Cup Series’ second-best average finish on the 2.28-mile, 17-turn road course oval.
Is a ROVAL™ win in the cards for Bowyer and Klausmeier this year? Don’t count them out. Bowyer is one of the Cup Series’ most consistent road racers and he’s pushing his No. 14 team to maximize its potential down the stretch.
“Are we where we want to be right now? Hell no,” Bowyer said as the regular season wound down. “We started off really, really well. We started off the front side of the (season) well. We’ve run into some bumps in the road. I hate to say it, but I can almost pinpoint (the momentum shift) on Talladega (when Bowyer finished 25th after a last-lap accident). You put it on Talladega and flip that (result) over and the next two months are drastically different because of that (due to being in the 13th-to-24th-in-points qualifying draw for races).
“When we start the race, we’re behind (everyone ahead of us in points). If those guys around you in points hang eight, 10 stage points on you, you’ve got to do something to differentiate yourself.”
Being different comes easy to Bowyer, at least. Many drivers eschew an outspoken personality for a more toned-down, soft-spoken approach. Since he burst on the scene in the mid-2000s as a NASCAR Xfinity Series standout for Richard Childress Racing, Bowyer has gained an army of fans for his colorful, tell-it-like-it-is style. It’s also what attracted FOX Sports to hire Bowyer as a commentator for some of the network’s NASCAR broadcasts. He even stepped in to announce iRacing events in March and April.
Clint Bowyer, NASCAR broadcaster?
“I’m a race car driver, man,” Bowyer said. “I love doing the broadcasts and things like that, but I think that time will come, and I don’t know when that’ll be. I want to race and I want to be in a race car. I love competing. I love being pissed off at the end of a race. I love being happy at the end of a race. I love that adrenaline of lining up next to a guy and wondering how in the hell you’re going to come off of Turn 2 ahead of him. That’s a feeling that can’t be replaced.
“That being said, I feel like I really have appreciated the relationship with FOX this year. It’s not up to me whether that happens or not. It’s a ton of fun, I can tell you that.”
Race fans and pundits alike have penciled Bowyer in the No. 14 car next year, with a new team, with FOX Sports – practically every option has been a rumor at some point in the season.
For his part, Tony Stewart loves having Bowyer teamed with fellow drivers Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola and Cole Custer. Promising Xfinity Series pilot Chase Briscoe could figure into Stewart’s 2021 plans, but NASCAR’s cap of four cars per team means there’s currently no room at the inn.
“I’m comfortable where we’re at,” Stewart said. “We’re still focused on the four guys we’ve got and giving them the best race cars we can give them.”
Pressed to choose his ideal option, Bowyer wants to return to the car he’ll drive in the Bank of America ROVAL™ 400.
“Stewart-Haas is a wonderful organization,” Bowyer said. “I want to be there. I want to retire there. I love the opportunity and the people behind it. I believe that all the pieces of the puzzle are there. The manufacturer in Ford … you couldn’t ask for a better manufacturer that’s invested in this sport the way they are. Again, it’s a perfect fit for me.”
About the Writer: A 2010 graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne University, Aaron Burns is the director of social media for A.E. Engine and a motorsports public relations and journalism practitioner, most recently with Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR Pole Position and SPEED SPORT Magazine.