Ford Performance NASCAR: Fontana Cup Qualifying (Clint Bowyer Pole Winner Press Conference)

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
Saturday, February 29, 2020
EVENT: NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying (Fontana)

CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Rush/HAAS CNC Ford Mustang – POLE WINNER PRESS CONFERENCE

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT STARTING OUT FRONT HERE TOMORROW? “Certainly that is where you want to be. Honestly, I didn’t really see that in the car. We didn’t run a qualifying lap yesterday. We made some changes in happy hour and the car kind of woke up and showed some speed but honestly, we were kind of focused on downforce and doing what we needed to do in traffic. That being said, that thing rocketed to the top there and he told me the lap time and I was like, ‘Damn, I think that is on the pole.’ Again, the sun was coming out and that changed the qualifying day quite a bit as the sun came out and it was right before us. I was watching the Gibbs cars go and you could see on SMT with the data we have now you can visibly see everyone starting to really jerk on the wheel in the middle of one and two and get loose. I was like, ‘Oh damn, here I go. I am fixin to see the same thing.’ Sure enough, I got in there and she just kind of slid in the slot and I didn’t have to chase it up the track. I just gave it one big catch and it pointed and shot off the corner and I was able to keep the throttle down. Then you see the 48 car, the last car out, the story of his last race at home. I figured there was no way we were going to win. I was better coming to the green and then better through one and two but then all of a sudden off of two he had a really good run and got ahead of me into three and four. Honestly, he was ahead of me off of four even, but I just pulled it down just a little bit more than he did down the front straightaway and just barely got him. That is what qualifying is all about with this produce where you are all but wide open. It comes down to your balance and how the car is trimmed out and things like that. It makes it interesting and nerve-wracking as well because it is all so close.”

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IT SOUNDS LIKE IT IS AN ADVANTAGE TO GO OUT LATE SO YOU CAN SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE DOING ON THE LIVE DATA. HAS THAT CHANGED THE GAME A LITTLE BIT, BEING ABLE TO WATCH AS YOU ARE QUALIFYING? “Absolutely. SMT and that data that we have now we can see everything, and you can see if you are wide open. We all knew after practice, everybody had a good handle on their cars and had worked for two practice sessions to get the handling dialed in and all of a sudden we all looked back at the SMT and the 88 car was wide open for five laps. It was like, ‘Uh oh. We are going to have to change the thought process. We need to do some different things.’ That is all on ride heights of the car and stuff like that. When you start moving those ride heights that is drag and downforce but it also changes your balance quite a bit so you have to really go back in and dissect your balance in your race car and setup with the chassis because you have moved the aero platform with the body. Those two things have to work together to find grip in the racetrack. That is when you hope that the computer and the smart guy behind it, that he didn’t have a bad night and that computer doesn’t have a virus because you need those worlds to collide with your aero platform and your chassis. For that, I think it has to do with this old surface really. That cloud cover was huge. You could see in your steering that everybody was barely working the wheel and as it kept getting hotter and hotter everyone was really sawing on the wheel as we went. That is why I was pretty nervous about it. I didn’t think anybody would beat those cars that went early unless they were just drastically trimmed out different.”

THIS RACE A YEAR AGO IS WHEN YOU MENTIONED HOW YOU GUYS ALL GOT BOOED. THIS YEAR, THE FANS WERE REALLY INTO QUALIFYING HERE TODAY. WHAT IS THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE? “I think this is the right format and it has stood the test of time. One thing that did kind of mess with me, to be honest with you, it may have played in my favor was that the 34 car that was the fastest stayed on the track and didn’t cut across the apron in three and four. That might not register to you guys but that is stuff that we all look for. When I came around, the 11 was shut off and on the apron. I didn’t even have that option. I don’t know if that was to my advantage or not but it was the cards I was dealt. Had it not been a good lap I may have been crying foul there. I wasn’t the only one though. There were several guys that were riding on the apron when their lap came around, that is just the way the timing was. We may need to look into that to make sure we all have a good clean lap. The last thing you want to do is get in the way of somebody. Or maybe you do, right? That was definitely something that kind of threw me for a loop. I think that the data that we have and Jeff being able to call that qualifying session with watching that loop data and that ghost car catch me and run me down and barely get by me, I am watching the same thing, right? I am thinking, ‘Nooooo!’ He got us right there at the end and then he didn’t quite pull it down far enough. I thought I was done. I threw my hat. I was kicking the ground. I just barely squeaked by him there at the end. That is what qualifying is all about, being nervous about it right until the end.”

YOU WILL SHARE THE FRONT ROW WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON IN HIS LAST RACE HERE, WHAT IS THAT LIKE? “It is cool. I guess I will be in all the pictures because you know damn well they will all be on him. At least I will be in the background for my sponsors right?”

JIMMIE BASICALLY SAID WHEN HE GOT TO THE CORNER IT WAS A CHOICE AS TO WHETHER HE WAS GOING TO LET THE MOTOR RUN AND HOW WIDE TO KEEP IT OFF OF THAT CORNER. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU GUYS CAN THINK ABOUT AND MAKE THAT CALL IN THE SPLIT-SECOND LIKE THAT? “Well, with the cars the way they are with the horsepower and the drag and everything else, throttle response, you have to be wide open. Then you start thinking that it can almost be too loose too. Those things get sideways and crank out and that side force can slow you down as well. You can’t be too loose or too tight. You have to have balance and keep that thing straight as possible to be sleek through the air. Me getting loose down there, it just kind of slid in the slot and I was good to go. I still knew that it scrubbed a lot of speed. You can hear it in the engine when it does that because it picks up that side force as well. It just worked out today. I have said it time and time again, my worst nightmare is when you make a qualifying lap in practice and it does that, you just slide it off in there and it is that perfect lap where it points and you mash the gas and away you go and you don’t think you can do it again and nine times out of 10 you can’t. It was one of those laps where it slid in well. I think after that he actually came off lower than I did off of four and I thought we were done but he didn’t pull down on the apron right at the flag stand and that is kind of where I got him back. Hell, I don’t know.”

WILL YOU TAKE THE INSIDE LANE? “Great question. I didn’t even think I would be in this situation when I woke up this morning. I was worried about being trimmed out and focused on Sunday. I don’t know. Probably the outside I would think.”

HIS FAMILY IS IN THE FLAG STAND: “Well, how can I cover him up the most in the shot that I can get the most pictures on my car? That is probably where I need to be.”

DO YOU PREFER TO RUN UNDER COOLER TEMPERATURES ON SUNDAY? “I am not going to lie to you, right now I don’t really care as long as we race tomorrow. I have been on the road for 11 days and trust me, I am feeling the heat from the wife back home that has been home with two kids for 11 days while I have been out chasing this dream. We are supposed to take the kids and meet up in Park City to go skiing next week. If my ass doesn’t make that tomorrow because we aren’t racing, she isn’t going to be very happy. I think this track is unique in so many ways from as wide as it is to the grip level that it has because of the worn surface, I think it presents well for a product for our fans and it doesn’t matter if it is going to be cool or hot, we will be slipping and sliding around and looking for real estate where that car in front of you is not and trying to keep that momentum alive. That is what is important.”

DID YOU GET A CHANCE TO TALK TO YOUR TEAMMATE COLE CUSTER? “I haven’t yet. I talked to him, we all debrief after practice. We all have been doing this a long time and I think it is important for all of us to try to help out as much as possible. The kid came from a dominant fashion in Xfinity and it is hard when you get in this series. You are used to leading every lap and leading every practice, winning every practice, winning a lot of races. It is hard. It is very hard when you get into a practice session and you look over and you are 20th and you are freaking out just on that alone. Forget the way the car is. You freak out looking at the lap times and you get to focusing on that and chasing the stopwatch. We all just try to make sure that he is pointed in the right direction. I guess it is a path, a thought process. We have been coming to this track a long time and we all kind of know what to expect and that is one thing he doesn’t know in these cars with the traffic and everything else. There are so many different things when you get to this level of competition in the Cup Series that catches you off guard. We all try to help out as much as we can with that. I am telling you, the kid is impressive. He is a wheel man and he has a hell of an opportunity. He will make the most of it.”

WHAT DOES WINNING THE POLE DO TO YOUR ATTITUDE GOING IN? “It makes today better but it makes it more nerve-wracking for me. Last time I did that I was like 50th on lap five. I couldn’t go back fast enough the way we were trimmed out in Vegas. We were conscious of that and focused on making sure we had downforce and it would race well. That is why when I woke up this morning I wasn’t even worried about today because I didn’t think we had a chance in hell to sit on the pole. Here we are baby. I am happy.”

WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE WORKING WITH JOHNNY KLAUSMEIER? “I think Johnny’s demeanor is just so chill. Mine is not. It is a good counter for me. I am freaking out in the car and he is just like, ’10-4’ and I am like, ‘That’s it? 10-4?’ It helps me calm down and stay focused on the task at hand. His through process and way he goes about his business is super chill. He has a good group of engineers and everybody underneath of him. It is a new opportunity. I always say a new broom always sweeps good. We have to keep together and make sure we are doing the right things and keep our communication down pat. It seems like this year has already thrown us for a lot of adversity and have to work through a lot of circumstances. Whether it was the Clash, my God, all the cautions and pits and fixing things to the 500, a chaotic 500 for us, to last weekend where we struggled. In my opinion, when you struggle with a new group it gives you a chance to work through a lot of things that sooner or later you will have to encounter. We stubbed our toe last week. We were off. There is no question. We were bummed out but caught a break there at the end and got a decent finish out of it and kept us alive in the points. No harm, no foul there. Coming this weekend is another learning curve. This has been a good track for me but I can’t finish here. I always run well here and really enjoy the racetrack but I have blown up, we blew up last year. I have done that two or three times. I have struggled to get the finish, so I am looking forward to having the opportunity to be there at the end of this thing. Beating ‘em by and inch would be just fine with me.”

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