TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS)
Clint Bowyer – Notes & Quotes
Richmond International Raceway – September 11, 2015
Michael Waltrip Racing driver Clint Bowyer was made available to the media at Richmond International Raceway:
CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Are you looking forward to getting the race going here at Richmond and battling for a place in the Chase?
“It’s that time of the year right? It’s fun times, cool race track – I’ve always loved this race track. From the first time I ever came here I remember making laps around here thinking, ‘Man, this is a perfect size race track.’ It’s always raced well and I’ve always had a lot of fun as we’re making laps around here. Couldn’t think of a better place to come to try to seal the deal and get ourselves into this Chase. It’s something that I’m very proud of having a shot at being a part of it and looking forward to the races after that. That’s the thing is you don’t just want to back your way into the Chase and then not perform and be the first one out. I want to go some rounds and have some fun in it and make some noise.”
How secure are you feeling about a spot in the Chase?
“To be dead honest with you, when I got up this morning I double-checked myself and where we were on the points just so I educated myself before we came and really I didn’t even look at that. Just the racer in you naturally looked at how close a guy was in front of you. He’s only 10 points ahead of me and it’s one of my best race tracks and honestly, that was the first thought in my mind when I looked at those points is that I saw where (Paul) Menard was and thought that was doable. It’s kind of weird, nobody ever likes looking over their shoulder and worrying about what’s behind them. You want to worry about what’s ahead and for me in this weekend it’s an attainable task to beat him out of that.”
Do you like your chances to get into the Chase and are you feeling good about where the team is currently?
“If you look at our last month-and-a-half, it’s been really solid. Last week we definitely stubbed our toe. We struck out – we sucked all weekend. I told them on the way home, I said, ‘Boy, we got our asses kicked right there.’ We did, from the time we unloaded to the time we put it back in the box. The good news is that we only go to that track once and it’s pretty unique from everywhere that we’re going to. It was a low downforce deal and it really doesn’t hold any kind of weight as it pertains to this year and moving forward. It’s kind of easy to put that one behind you and worry about that another day because the group that I’m with, the organization that I’m with and the people that are working on these cars – that will never be in existence again. The good news is that we’ve been solid in this package and we’ve been solid at this race track. I’m looking forward to Chicago and getting there. We’re going to test Kansas next week and that will prepare us for what I consider a very similar race track to Chicago. Everybody wants to talk about the task at hand, but that’s just the way our world works. All week long we’re thinking about Chicago and thinking about Kansas and what we have to do to prepare ourselves for that Chase because we’re worried about Richmond weeks ago. I think through that the thing I like the most about everything that I see is that preparation that dedication is there with our team and just as easily couldn’t be. It’s a great deal of pride with the group that I’m with and their focus and attention to detail going into this.”
How much progress have you made toward where you will race in 2016?
“I think first of all it’s very humbling, the phone calls. As soon as the news comes out that you’re not going to have a future at your present employment, obviously you’re nervous and you’re worried about what that means for yourself or your people and with everything. It’s humbling the people that have reached out and been interested in me, but truth be told man, look what we’re in the middle of. Timing is good that it’s ahead and not the end of the year that you’re finding this out, but nonetheless it’s pretty crunching times right here and it’s like I told them, ‘I don’t want to use the word back burner, but let’s just take a timeout right here for a couple weeks and take care of business.’ That’s kind of what we did this week. I stayed at the farm, Lorra (Bowyer) went to New York City with her girlfriends for a couple days and me and little man chilled out. I used a little help. Grandma showed up quite a bit, I ain’t going to lie to you. She made sure I was under control and then she would go.”
How much of a concern is the weather forecast for tomorrow?
“That’s what I love about you guys (media), you’re always looking for a good story and boy, that’d be a hell of a story. Again, you can’t worry about that kind of stuff. At the end of the day, we’ve got a good enough point pad that if we go out and do what we’re capable of doing, we’re plenty good. If somebody was to win and something happened, it just wasn’t meant to be. At the end of the day, we’ve done all we can do. We can go out and win this race, I can tell you that. We’ve done it before and we’re capable of that. Who knows, there’s nothing to be said that it wouldn’t be us in victory lane enjoying that very moment you’re talking about.”
Are you surprised there haven’t been more different winners?
“I’m not really surprised with the new winners because the sport just seems like if you really look at things, when you look at the organizations and the cars that are running good, cars that are struggling – it doesn’t matter what program you’re on and what side of that, it seems like they’re racing each other. Each organization, it’s like their equipment, their SIMS and everything that they produce is kind of orchestrated throughout their organization. It seems like at some point in the race a caution will come out and you look and here’s all the Gibbs bunch, here’s the Hendrick bunch, here’s the Stewart Haas bunch and here’s the Roush bunch. Seems like that’s the way we’ve kind of migrated towards with everything that’s going on and as close as the competition is and I think it comes down to all that engineering, the simulation and all that stuff. It really tightens things up to that nature. I’m not really surprised there hasn’t been a new winner as far as that goes, but I am surprised through all of this the last month-and-a-half, we stubbed our toe big time at Michigan and if you take that out, we were running in the top-five there. If we would have had that top-five we’d have been locked in already. The only thing that I’m really happy of and didn’t catch me off guard because I knew the potential was there, but just a great deal of pride with all the things that have been going on is that we marched back into the Chase. I’m telling you, two months ago I didn’t see this even being a shot and they really dug deep and worked hard. We switched crew chiefs, we switched some key components of the organization around and boom it took off and we marched our way into the Chase talk.”
Do you think we will see the downforce package again this year?
“That package is not going to happen again this year and I think it’s as simple as that. If you look at that package it’s kind of interesting. I left there and I was driving home and just thinking about the weekend and everything that I saw and everything and you look at that low downforce package and it kind of changed the ingredients obviously a little bit and the downforce packages and the packages that these teams run and different organizations and different manufacturers seem to be better on it than others. It all comes down to aero. Anytime you hear us complaining about grip, you know you’re in trouble because nine times out of 10 it’s not a spring change or a shock change that’s an aero balance and it’s not going to be fixed at the race track. So, that being said whether its underbody side force, downforce whatever that they’ve got going on for them. When I saw that weekend and the low downforce it seemed like the Ford’s ran better than they’ve been running all season long – same as Kentucky. The Toyota’s definitely stepped up, (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) more than us, but none the less the Toyota’s stepped up. And, I think if it hurt anybody the most it probably hurt the Chevrolet’s. That’s just my take of the low downforce package. That’s a good thing though, you know what I mean? You want to shake things up and you hope to and I think it did a little bit.”
How do you keep your team focused and be a championship contender with the team trying to find other jobs?
“I think to your point to be honest with you that was my idea. I felt like we owed it to them just like I said in Bristol to tell them at the earliest possible situation came up that we came to an agreement there so they could go out and work on their future and know what that future held and that they didn’t have one at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing). I mean, everybody thinks differently, but for me I felt like that’s how you can get the most out of your people throughout the year. The racer in you – that’s what I love about this sport – the competitive racing nature of it just prevails. Obviously people have families to provide for and a future to worry about but they’re doing so. I can tell you, I know for a fact that as soon as they get off work, before work, during work text messaging or whatever. They’re working on their futures and that’s exactly what I intended them and hoped that they would do. All the while still digging as hard as they can and getting our cars where they need to be to compete for a championship.”
Why has this season been tamer with drivers and do you think it will get more intense between drivers in the Chase?
“We beat the hell out of each other in the motorhome lot (laughter), you guys just can’t see it and write about it. No, really. That’s how Denny (Hamlin) really hurt his knee (laughter) – you don’t know that? Again, it kind of goes back to what I was talking about with the organizations when I left Darlington even, it seems like you’re racing, your engineering performance, it seems like you’re teammates a lot and you’re obviously not going to have a skirmish or on-track battle with one of your teammates. You know, with that being said everybody is on different agendas. I think this weekend could be the first step in some wild activity on the race track and it will only progress from there. The pressure cooker definitely heats up, just like they intended it to in this Chase, and that’s when you guys started getting blisters on your fingers writing stories. I think that’s going to be the case again. It just seems like there’s no time, there’s nothing – no period of the Chase that it’s a comfortable moment where you can ride a little bit. It’s always crunch time and you’ve got to go.”
Are you participating in the Kansas text Wednesday and are you expecting to try the different packages for 2016?
“Yeah. Right now, I don’t care. I’m going to focus as much as I can on this year and get the benefit out of that. I’m not even going to be sitting in the same race car next year. I’m a firm believer in the low downforce package. I think it makes that seat a lot more useful and a lot more important as far as the overall package goes and I think the tire really predicts a lot of different things too. I went to the Homestead tire test. We went through a lot of changes. It was a three day test and went from the ’15 package with the control tire to the second day on the ’16 package with the control tire and you’re slipping and sliding around driving it and having fun and really an enjoyable challenge. And, then they flip and put those Indy tires on that we ran last weekend and it wasn’t. It was kind of right back to what felt like what we had this year. Really tight and it wouldn’t roll the center very good and it has pretty good comfortable grip. That just tells you with the same package, they can tune a lot of things and move the needle with something as simple as the tire. It still goes down to making sure that we have the right combination to put on a good program for our fans.”
How much of an advantage is it for the drivers and crew chiefs that have past Chase experience?
“It all comes back to, things have changed a lot in this sport. I really do think that obviously like I said the pressure and everybody knows that pressure cooker is wide open once that Chase starts and it forces your hand to make a mistake with a certain decision or something like that, but at the end of the day it comes down to the organization you’re with — the crew chief, the engineers, your package. If you’ve got a good package starting this year out and you’ve been solid week in and week out you’re going to have a better percent chances than the guy that isn’t. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time in it or your 27th time in it, it really just doesn’t matter. It comes down to having a good program underneath of you and making the right decisions just like you did all year long and don’t change a thing.”