NASCAR Media Conference
September 25, 2007
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the weekly NASCAR teleconference. This week we're in advance of Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at Kansas Speedway. It is the LifeLock 400. That is the third race in the 2007 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
Quick reminder about how the Chase works: It's the final ten races of the year determines the series champion. The drivers and the Chase field there's 12 of them, and those are the top 12 in the standings after 26 races of the 36ârace season.
There's currently one driver in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series who is a Kansas native, Clint Bowyer, from Emporia, Kansas. Bowyer drives the No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing and is only 18 points behind Chase points leader Jeff Gordon.
Clint is sixth in points coming into Kansas this week. Two weeks ago in Newâ Hampshire, Clint opened the Chase with his first career victory in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series. Really exciting.
Clint, going back to your home state â this time you're right in the middle of the Championship contention. What's that feel like?
CLINT BOWYER: Oh, it's very exciting. I mean, just to think about even having a shot at this Championship our second year, you know, of being together at RCR and at Jack Daniel's Chevrolet. It's a dream come true.
You know, we escaped, you know, Dover with a decent finish. We dodged a lot of bullets and enabled ourselves to stay in the hunt of this thing and to be able to roll into our home track right in the thick of things is a lot of fun and very exciting.
HERB BRANHAM: Excellent. We'll be ready to go to the media now for questions for this week's teleconference guest, Clint Bowyer.
Q. Clint, going back to two weeks ago when you won, obviously you were pretty emotional after and seemed to be pretty emotionally concerned before that your car was tight and wondering if you could hold on. Then last week this past Sunday TV was reporting that you were pretty worked up when you got collected in that accident.
With this thing bunching up, the Chase bunching up so tight, is this thing liable to turn you gray headed before it's over?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, it's just a big deal. You're racing for the Nextel Cup Championship. And you know the first race of my career winning that was very, you know, hardâfought thing and very prestigious to win these races. And to be in contention, you know, winning it was our first time, and it's just exciting for me.
I wasn't worried about them catching me, I was worried about if a caution came up I was going to be able to hold them off. That was the concern. We had a sixâsecond lead. I surely wasn't going to blow that. But you know, on to last week it was just a very dumb thing on a racetrack that, you know, almost took both of us out of contention of the championship. And you know, so easily could have been avoided.
I mean, those are the things that you can't afford to do, you know, when you're racing for a championship. And like I say, it ruined my chances of a win that day. I really felt like we had a car capable of winning. I mean, we came from last to passing for sixth, And it said a lot about our car. Unfortunately, we got caught up in somebody else's mess. Didn't look like I was the only one that thought so, either.
Q. I've got two subjects but I'll ask you one now and come back later. I don't know if you've heard the news today that Kansas Speedway has petitioned to get approval to build a $600 million hotel and casino entertainment attraction right there in your old backyard. I was just wondering your thoughts? Could you ever envision that whole area being what it is, and what a casino and entertainment district like that would mean? Would the drivers like going to places like that when they're at events?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, first of all, I remember when that track was a housing development, you know. And to be able to see all that construction take place, and the clearing of that, and the clearing for the speedway, the speedway being built. All the while I was driving down the road to Lakeside to race on dirt.
You know, building something like that certainly, just to see that whole area develop the way it has with the mall, you know, the Nebraska Furniture Mart, Cabela's out there. It's just amazing how big that area's become and how much it's brought to the Kansas City area.
But I think it just says a lot about the horsepower of NASCAR and you know the attraction of it. Brought all that out there, and certainly having some more attraction out there would be better.
Of course, you know, drivers, we're no different than anybody else. We just don't have as much time. We'd certainly love to have a good time and to have an attraction like a casino and something like that would be a lot of fun to participate in.
Q. Clint, when you go back to Emporia, how do you feel when you walk the streets and going places and stuff like that and see people wearing your gear and seeing your name all over town? Is there a feeling you're driving for an entire town if not an entire state?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, you know, that is probably the strangest thing about going to Emporia. Those are the people you grew up around, those are your people. And back home they still know me, I'm just Clint back there. That's why I enjoy going back to places like that. They don't look at you any differently than they did before. They certainly support you, and that's very gratifying and comforting.
You know, it is neat to have a small community like that. And it's a big deal. You know, this Nextel Cup Series is a big thing. And NASCAR's certainly just keeps getting bigger and bigger. And to be part of all of this is a pretty cool deal.
Q. I wonder if you can kind of take us back to that ARCA race in 2003 that turned out to be your big break? And we all know about the phone call from Richard afterward, but sort of what got through and did you have any idea it would be as career defining as it was?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, it was just an unbelievable day. To think back what we were able to accomplish with so little. None of us had a clue going into that thing that we were going to be even remotely close to having a shot at winning. To be able to qualify good and lead and do those things, it was just unbelievable.
I mean, it's still to think back at the equipment, our resources, the things we had for that race. Don't get me wrong, we didn't have just utter junk, but I mean it was not near what we were up against. So many unknowns. There were so many of us that had never raced at that level of racing.
To be able to think back to what we were able to accomplish that day was a miracle, and certainly thankfully the right person was watching at the right time.
Q. One more question about Sunday's incident. As both the victim and a spectator of the HamlinâKyle Petty thing, Kyle said flatly, 'he ran over me from behind.' Denny was more like he should have gotten out of the way. He's been holding people up for a while now.
As victim and spectator to that, how did you see that? How do you see it, that particular incident?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, I mean, giveâandâtake goes a long ways on this racetrack. And, you know, I had caught Denny, and he was racing me pretty hard. From what I watched he was racing a lot of people pretty hard all day long.
But you know, it's just a mistake. I mean, he flat out made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. He flat out ran over him. They don't have to get out of your way. It's called racing, and you know, Kyle has just as much ride as Denny does to be out on the racetrack.
You know, just wasn't Kyle's day. I know that's one of Kyle's best racetracks, and he always runs good there. And you know, nonetheless, he didn't deserve just to be crashed. He got run over.
But we all make mistakes. But like I said, when you're in the thick of a Championship and racing for such a prestigious thing and to have that opportunity, you can't afford to make those kind of mistakes.
Q. I want to followâup on that question. Even though everybody makes mistakes and there's a lot at stake, you're in your second year just like Denny is. Are there certain unspoken rules of the road or of the circuit that the veterans expect that you had to learn in these two years that you have to respect?
CLINT BOWYER: I think it's just that last word you said, respect. You have to respect, you know, your competitors. You know, when you do that, you earn the respect back. And Denny's done a good job of that. And I feel like we have, you know, with our Jack Daniel's Chevrolet. And in return, when you see them move over and things for you and give and take, you learn from that.
And we've certainly had the best drivers in the world to learn from, all of us have. So, you know, I think there's a lot of give and take out there that we learn from those guys on how to get to the end of these 500 mile races, and that rule of thumb, you know, needs to stay there.
Q. This sport always seems to equalize a driver. I mean, one week you're a first time winner and emotions are high. The next week you're sharing a pit stall. Describe the emotions that go on with that, and it seems to happen a lot with drivers when they're on the highest of highs and lowest of lows. And is that indicative of the extreme competition in this sport?
CLINT BOWYER: I think it's just our sport in general. It's been that way ever since I can remember racing cars. You know, it's just a very humbling sport. It can show you the highest of highs and drag you down and show you the lowest of lows. You know, right backâtoâback. And certainly that's why we all do it. That is why it is so competitive. And that's why you're constantly working harder to be better. But certainly I'm a prime example. When they're sitting on the pole, winning the race in dominant fashion and back it up with starting dead last.
But still, it wasn't like we were junk all day. We drove up to the front and we were going to be contender for the win again, I really do believe that. It was incredible how fast our car was again that day.
But you make a lot of your own luck in this sport just like any other sport. But occasionally bad luck does get you. And we just flat out made a mistake qualifying, and overâadjusted. And with these Car of Tomorrow races, it doesn't take that big of an adjustment anymore to knock yourself out of contention as we saw, you know, in qualifying day for us.
Q. Did the win at Newâ Hampshire take some of the pressure off of having to come into your home track looking for your first win?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, certainly it was much more exciting. I would have loved nothing more than to come out of Dover in the points lead going into Kansas. I thought that was my goal, and I thought that would be so cool to be able to go to your home track being in the point's lead. But it wouldn't have been a lot of pressure.
Still it doesn't matter what racetrack you're going to. There's going to be a lot of pressure. And we're 18 points out of a Nextel Cup Championship, And we've got just as good a shot as anybody at this thing. So very tight right now.
You know, you're going to have to be on top of your game week in and week out. And I really think we've stepped up to the challenge and can be a contender in this thing. I really do.
Got some good racetracks coming up. You know, Kansas is certainly going to be fun, and it is going to be challenging. There's going to be a lot of pressure, you know, all across the board. You want to run good in front of your hometown crowd. But come race time, you strap the helmet on and you can't worry about that, you have to do what it takes to win that Championship at the end of the year.
Q. You've been a Busch driver, now you're a Busch whacker. What do you see the future of the Busch series? Seems to be at a crossroads, looking for some identity. Looking for people to identify, and with. Equipment changes coming up in Cup. How do you see the future of the Busch series? Do you see a good one or do you think it's got some problems?
CLINT BOWYER: No, it's always going to be bright. I mean, it's tops in all of motor sports second to the Cup series. You can't forget that.
It certainly has some obstacles that it needs to overcome, I believe. I mean, it becomes more and more apparent that Cup drivers are running in the series and trying to develop drivers is becoming a little bit of an issue.
But I can remember back in 2004 when I got my start. You know, I was able to be a better race car driver because I learned from the very best. I mean, it wasn't the back markers of the Cup series running those races. It's the guys that are winning races week in and week out.
Let's face it, if you win against those guys, you're ready for a Cup ride. And certainly there's been a handful of us that have been able to prove that in the Busch series, and because of that, we got a Cup ride.
Q. Why did you decide to move from bikes to cars? And what was your parentsí reaction when you decided to make that move?
CLINT BOWYER: I was, you know, I just wasn'tâ ââ I mean, I'm a racer. I'm very competitive. Always have been ever since I started racing, and I want to win. I want to be the best there is and that's what I love about racing. You know, you constantly are thriving to be the very best.
I wasn't in motocross. I could just see it wasn't going to happen, and I would struggle to be there. And you know, I was just tired of the grind. I wanted a new challenge. And when I went to car racing I was at a point in my life where I just wanted to have fun and enjoy some of the things I love which is racing and friends and things like that. And the people that I was working for, they had cars. I got to hanging around them. And one thing led to another, and it was just fun.
It was fun to go to the racetrack, fun to be around racing. Totally different type of racing I've ever been around. And I really enjoyed, you know, being at a different kind of racetrack and learning and the challenge of learning what it takes to be, you know, good at that sport.
And just kept going and kept getting better and winning championships, and one thing led to another, and next thing you know, you're running asphalt, and running an ARCA car to get your ride for hopefully the rest of your career. So it's just kind of a weird time, and it's very strange to me how everything played out to getting me a Cup ride.
Q. If I can get to you look ahead a little bit to Talladega and what you learned from testing there a couple weeks ago in the Car of Tomorrow. How is the Car of Tomorrow going to impact Talladega? What did you learn there?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, it's going to be a handful. It's still the same old Talladega. You're going to have to survive. I don't think that's ever going to go away from that. You're just able to get away with so much there and race so close that, you know, we get greedy in the car. And one little slipâup on anybody's part, and it's a big wreck. It's a big flipâup.
So, you know, certainly these cars are, you know, we're able to be a little bit closer, bunched up than ever. So that's more recipe for disaster even yet.
So we're just going to have to be on top of our game. It's going to be a definite, you know, place where everybody's going to have their eye on going into for this Championship. Everybody's you know already talking about it. I'm certainly worried about it, and just going to have to get out of there with good points there. It's going to be crucial to win in this Championship
Q. Were there lessons or habits you learned as you and your dad and the family pulling cars around racing when you're racing with Tim Karrick or whatever and those guys that you still apply today that means something at this level?
CLINT BOWYER: Absolutely. I don't think you're ever done racing. You know, Karrick and all those guys back home that I've learnedâ ââ those are the guys I've learned how to race from. Certainly the lessons to beat those guys are no different than the principle of things that it takes to be the beat the very best of the sport.
But you just definitely applied everything you learned back home racing. The same principles apply winning championships. You know, the mindset, how to pass, things like that on the racetrack that you learn certainly go to you know, how to look at the car in front of you, see where you're better, see his weaknesses and figuring out a way around him. That applies in every kind of racing. I mean that's the instinct that you learn in racing. No different from motorcycles or cars or anything else.
Q. What have been the most difficult hurdles for you moving up and staying in Nextel Cup?
CLINT BOWYER: Just, you know, the different racetracks â learning to adapt to so many different racetracks. And face it, to be one of the elite group, what I consider the elite group and making the Chase and being a part of the big time, you know, it's very hard to adapt to so many different racetracks. You have to be good at every one of them.
You can't have bad racetracks. And if you do, you're not part of that group. The guys that win these Championships and win races, you know, basically the Top 10 in points, those guys are good at every track. They don't have bad tracks.
And that's been the hardest thing for me is to adapt to these racetracks, continue to get better on the tracks that I'm not particularly fond of and not have bad racetracks. I think that's been the biggest challenge.
Q. Thank you very much. Oddly enough on the weekend that you won your first race at Loudon, I was covering an NHRA drag race in Memphis, Tennessee. It was the 20th, talking to a Memphis native who said he was there when they broke ground and it began a dream of his. Can you remember riding down the road, going to a race, and seeing the sign come up that says Kansas City Speedway? Did that enhance your dream to some day race in NASCAR so that you could come back and race in the Cup Series in front of your hometown friends?
CLINT BOWYER: Oh, absolutely. I remember when the Kansas Speedway was nothing more than a housing development. And to see those houses you know being bought off and cleared, the track being built. Then you know this huge area that it's turned into now with the Furniture Mart, Cabela's, the mall, you know, the baseball team over there with the field. It's just unbelievable to see how big that area has become and how much that track has brought to Kansas City.
So certainly I can remember that and can remember, you know, driving down the lakeside and passing all that construction. You know, hopefully some day being able to pull in there and race.
HERB BRANHAM: I appreciate that. And Clint, we appreciate you taking time out from your busy schedule for joining us. I know this is just an absolutely huge week for you going back home. So best of luck to you.
CLINT BOWYER: Thank you very much.
HERB BRANHAM: All right, everyone. Clint Bowyer, sixth place in points, 18 points behind first place Jeff Gordon going into Kansas Speedway.
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