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Optimistic Bowyer Rolling with Punches of Frustrating Winless Season in 2019

Clint Bowyer reacts with a hearty laugh when asked whether handling or horsepower is most important in driving a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stock car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“The best answer is LOL,” he said, pausing to laugh more. “Literally, that’s my answer. You need both. With our package that we’re running right now with our sport, you can actually adjust that. For the first time that I think I’ve ever been in the sport, you can take drag out of your car and you can put downforce in it.

“One or the other is going to make for faster speeds on the straightaway and less handling in the corners, and vice versa. That is the balancing act. Which one of those do we need the most? Which one of those is going to help us not only get to the front but stay up front and win this race? Time will tell.”

While the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line seems like a long way off Sunday, Sept. 8, Bowyer was back in the Midwest on June 25 to join Bobby and Graham Rahal for a Pro Driver Fantasy Camp to benefit One Cure at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois. One Cure sponsors Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing as well as Rahal’s No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Bowyer, 40, has enjoyed some strong runs at the Brickyard, finishing fifth last year and a career-best fourth in 2006 and 2010. He’s eager to make his 14th Brickyard start in September.

“There is no place like Indy. It’s Indy,” he said. “That place is so unique from any track that we ever go to in our sport. You watch Indy cars on it. It’s unique to anything they go to. That place is the epitome of unique.

“It’s so different than your day job, your norm. You’ve got to think outside your box. You’ve got to have track position. You’ve got to be up front in clean air; that’s where your car is going to handle the most. But that’s where everybody thrives to be. That’s everybody’s job when they show up there on any given weekend, it’s to be up front and put on a show for the fans, being up front for the sponsors and being at the right place at the end for the win for everybody.”

One might think that driving for Hoosier racing legend Tony Stewart would translate to added motivation to win for the boss, who among other accomplishments as a driver celebrated two Brickyard victories. Again, the upbeat Bowyer can’t help but chuckle.

“I don’t think any racer can help but be selfish at that track,” he said. “You’re not wanting to win that for anybody else. You want to win that to put your name in the history books at a historic track. That’s why you show up there and put your helmet on.

“Race car drivers are selfish. If anybody ever said they were going out there to win for somebody else, they’re crazy. They want to win it for themselves, especially a race like Indy.

“Tony showed up there a couple times and got the job done. I raced against him before I raced for him, and he was always uncharacteristically on point when it came to Indy.”

A month ago, Bowyer seemed on point and on the verge of winning his first race of the season after a stretch of six top-10 finishes in seven starts. But he’s still winless this season, sitting 12th in the points with a respectable eight top-10 finishes.

That doesn’t sit too well with a driver who has 10 career Cup victories and finished 12th in the points last year, with two wins and a Playoffs spot. His best Cup points season was second in 2012. He’s also been third and fifth, so the Kansas native knows what it’s like to run up front as a strong contender.

“We really were on a roll,” he said. “If we were standing here a month ago, I would say a win would come next week. That’s how challenging racing is and how quickly you can either get ahead or get behind. A month ago, I’d a told you a win was coming next week.

“Now, a month from that, I’m looking back at a race like Richmond where I ran the leader down and got to him. I should have just moved him and went on and won the race. I would have drove off and won by 10 seconds. I didn’t, thinking the way we were running it was going to be our time, if it doesn’t happen in the next four or five laps it’s going to be our time soon.

“Now, you’re standing here looking back at that race and thinking, ‘Damn, I wish I did what I had to do to win the race instead of being the courteous driver who didn’t win the race.’ Because nobody reads about that guy. They only read about the guy who handled it and won the race.”

He laments what could have been and shrugs. That’s racing.

“There’s nothing that will show you a higher high and then drag your ass to the lowest of lows like racing,” Bowyer said. “I don’t know of any other sport who can show you that emotional swing through even a month worth of time. We’re going in and out of so many different cities, so many different types of racetracks. It’s all over the board and the game as far as setups, driving styles and everything that goes into driving and racing on all these different racetracks.

“We’re behind right now. There’s no other way around it. But we’re working hard, and I like the direction we’re going. When you get down like this and you have a four-car operation like at Stewart-Haas Racing, it’s important to make sure everyone is pulling on the rope in the same direction. It’s very easy to get one team out chasing one thing and down one path they feel and the next one in some other direction you don’t know about. It’s very easy to get pulled that way. In my opinion through the course of my career, I’ve seen teams go drastically wrong that way. It’s very important that everybody is working in the same direction and believing in the same direction.”

So what’s different from last year? That’s easy.

“We haven’t won yet,” he said, smiling. “That’s it.”

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