NASCAR Cup PR Ford Performance NASCAR: Phoenix 1 (Clint Bowyer Media Availability)

Ford Performance NASCAR: Phoenix 1 (Clint Bowyer Media Availability)

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NASCAR CUP SERIES
PHOENIX RACEWAY
FANSHIELD 500
FORD PERFORMANCE DRIVER MEDIA AVAILABILITY
FRIDAY, MARCH 6, 2020

CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Mobil 1/Haas CNC Ford Mustang

OUR DRIVERS TAKING ANY PRECAUTIONS WITH THE CORONAVIRUS IN TERMS OF AUTOGRAPHS, THINGS LIKE THAT? “I think everybody sees the headlines and reads the news just like anybody else. From what I can tell, there are a lot of unknowns and mixed feelings. Some people say it is bad and the next person says it is nothing but a cold. I treat my fans no different than the next guy. I am going to shake his hand and appreciate him being here.”

DO YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE SAFETY DISCUSSIONS IN TERMS OF WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE NEWMAN CAR, ETC.? “I actually heard that our driver council, I know Denny (Hamlin) is on it. I was talking to Mike last night about it and I know that they met with some of those drivers. Denny is a terrible communicator though. It goes in one ear and never comes out. It beats the hell out of me what they talked about. There is a great deal of effort that goes into something like that and there is always something that you can take and learn. Thank God it wasn’t at the expense of much. Obviously he got hurt but he is here and has a smile on his face and looks to me like he is ready to get back in. Obviously we have taken what we’ve learned so far and put it to good use but there is always something you can improve on.”

WHEN YOU HEAR THE SAFETY STUFF THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT, DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER? “Honestly, I have never felt safer. I feel safer in my hot rod out there on a race track than I do in a rental car.”

DOES YOUR CAR FEEL LIKE 2018 WITH THIS PACKAGE? “I don’t know. It is crazy to think that it doesn’t feel any different but it really just doesn’t feel a whole lot different. We fight the same old things. I think that the track surface and the tire that we run out here is the biggest common denominator to all of that. We kind of felt that when we moved to this downforce package. It really doesn’t change a whole lot. I think you will be able to see that on Sunday when we line ‘em up and fan out on restarts and stuff like that. You are going to see a different thing. You won’t be able to just drive that thing in there three or four-wide comfortably like we could with all that downforce on the restarts. Who knows. Maybe there will be more chaos.”

DO YOU EVER THINK OF THE TIME YOU CHASED JEFF GORDON THROUGH THE GARAGE HERE? HE SAID HE LOCKED THE DOOR CAUSE HE KNEW YOU WERE COMING: “What a wuss. We shared a lot of laughs about that. That was so long ago that it is sad we are still talking about that. We need new highlights. I need someone else to get pissed so we can laugh at them. I hate being the guy that gets laughed at. It was definitely a chapter in the old book, that is for sure.”

“That was a lot of effort for nothing. I am getting older. I am 40 years old for crying out loud. If you are running that hard it better be for something. There better be a reason. You run all that way and can’t even find anybody and you are just standing around thinking, ‘What the hell did I do that for?’

WHAT IF HE HADN’T LOCKED THE DOOR? “Are you trying to pick a story? That was the end. I couldn’t find him. It was fun. It wasn’t fun, but it is fun to look back on things like that and it isn’t every day that you get in a squabble with a hall of famer.”

WHAT IS THIS NEW SCHEDULE LIKE GETTING A TEST RUN AT THE PLACE WHERE THE CHAMPIONSHIP RACE WILL BE HELD? “Nothing different than you ever do with your mindset. You come here and you can fly all the way across the country and be thinking, ‘Alright, it is so important to make sure that you leave here confident and have a good hot rod because you know the money is on the line when you come back.’ Then you get here and you start going over notes and data and getting in tune and in sync with your crew chief and engineers and stuff and all that fades away because you are just focused on the task at hand of attacking the circumstances. It is really hot today. It is supposed to be cooler on Sunday. You know darn well that is going to be a massive change in the grip level of the race track and what that brings to your car. Obviously the PJ-1 on the race track on the outside hasn’t come in yet and it is always kind of slick until it does and then all of a sudden it is like glue. You know that in the back of your mind. When you come here it is easy to let your mind think about the importance of this first race knowing what is ahead but once you get here it all just fades away because you are focused on what is going on.”

YOU TALKED ABOUT MAYBE MORE CHAOS. IN THE FALL IT WAS HARD TO PASS: “It was pretty much impossible to pass but that is why we made these changes. It is nice to know you have that ability in your sport. It isn’t every day that you have a sport where you can make a subtle change like this and make a difference. Hopefully it makes a difference. I am a race fan. We all want this to be a good show. We need this to be a good show. This is an awesome race track and killer fan base and we need to put on a good show for them.”

HAVE YOU SEEN THE BARN THAT JEFF GORDON CAME UP WITH? “I have and I have to go grade this barn tomorrow with Fox. We are going to go out there and check it out. Unfortunately we are doing it before qualifying and I am calling the Xfinity race. I wanted to go out there and belly up to the bar and really take it in. We will have to leave that up to the fans and see how it goes. He came up with that idea two years ago at least and asked if I wanted to be a part of it. Damn, I wish I would have said yes now. It looks like he is going to make a bunch of money. More importantly it is adding another element to an already good program out here. So many people don’t realize the camping aspect of Phoenix. These west coasters out here know how to have fun. They are so used to the off-road stuff. You see so many toy haulers and they are used to having sand buggies or four-wheelers going to the sand dunes or off-roading in the desert. They have a grocery store here. If you have never been to that grocery store you should go. Anyway, I am looking forward to it. It is a needed thing at these race tracks and adds a great element to an already great program.”

WITH THE SPEED YOU HAD AT AUTO CLUB AND VEGAS, DO YOU ANTICIPATE THE SAME KIND OF SPEED IN ATLANTA NEXT WEEK? “I actually hope not. We have proven that we can be fast one lap but we need to be fast for 40 laps and that is what I am focused on. We have definitely went back and went to work. You come out here and again, it wasn’t a big rule change, but it is still new and there is a new manufacturer with a new body and you knew that they were going to be better. No question. And they are a lot better. So you have to get better. In getting better, you try to get outside the sandbox and try something and obviously we thought we would be better than we were. The cars are fast. They have good speed, they just didn’t show it on a long run and over the course of a run we fell off really bad obviously. We had a bad weekend. Some of that can be corrected. We stubbed our toe on pit road and had a mishap where we knocked the valve stem out, of all things. I ahve never had that before in all the years I have been driving. It was just a bad weekend. I love that place and we usually over the years that was one of my go-to tracks but as of the last five years it has been nothing but heartache and misery. I think we have blown up three or four times there over the years and the flat tire killed the splitter and ruined our day there last week.”

DO YOU LIKE ATLANTA? “I love Atlanta. I think everybody likes Atlanta. If you are a race car driver, you get up on the wheel and are slipping and sliding around. You work your ass off there. That is what you look for in a race track. Vegas, I really struggled there. The hardest thing to do was to not overdrive it. Coming from a dirt background, the harder you drive her the faster she goes. The harder you work the faster it goes. With that thing and the speed you are going and the aero platform you have it is very easy to overdrive the car and blow through the grip in the tires.”

AS ABRASIVE AS ATLANTA IS, IS THERE THERE STILL TIRE MANAGEMENT? “Definitely there is. It is just different. Your tire management used to come from your throttle pedal. Now your speed and everything else are all wide open so your tire management comes through the way you and your team get the balance on your race car instead of you and your car doing the managing with the throttle pedal. You don’t lean on the wheel unless you have to and if you have to, you better not have to for very long. The game has changed. When they took the horsepower away the tire management and Goodyear changing the tire has drastically changed that aspect.”

IT SEEMS LIKE SO FAR THIS YEAR, IF YOUR CAR IS FAST IN QUALIFYING IT ISN’T FAST IN THE RACE: Really, your aero platform and all that stuff has to jive. Your aero has to communicate and work well with your chassis balance and vice versa. It is the total package. It is not just that you missed it with 100 pounds too much right rear spring or 50 too much of left rear wedge or a track bar adjustment. It is all tied together from the aero side of things and the chassis side of things. They really have to work well together. If not, you are spinning your wheels.”

WHAT IS THE TIRE FALL OFF LIKE HERE? CAN YOU TELL YET? “You know, the grip level, the old fire ball up there heated the track up and it got slick quick in practice from the first run to pretty much every run after that. You would go out and were slipping and sliding around chasing balance. Typical Phoenix. The tire just feels really, really hard. That thing is stuck and then the minute it is not it is absolutely broke loose and it is like you are on ice. It is either the rear or the front, whatever balance you have on it. It doesn’t have the side wall that is forgiving that lets you lay into the grip of the tire. It is rock hard. The minute it sheers, it really sheers.”

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