Forbes and Clint........

All things Clint
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Forbes and Clint........

Post by Annalee »

Forbes and Clint........


The Coca-Cola 600, run every Memorial Day weekend, caps off one of the most prestigious days in auto racing. First, on that weekend’s Sunday morning, is F1's Monaco Grand Prix. Following that is IndyCar's Indianapolis 500. Finally, if that’s not enough burning rubber, there is Nascar’s Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte that evening.

I had been to F1 and IndyCar races, but never to a Nascar race. So this year I attended the 600 to meet one of Stewart-Haas Racing's primary drivers, Clint Bowyer.

After a tour of SHR headquarters in Charlotte, where the team builds and assembles its cars - then meetings with Peak Antifreeze executives, the primary sponsor of Bowyer’s car for the race, and Nascar officials to discuss race rules and view intricately detailed car inspections - it was the interview with Bowyer. The driver of the #14 Ford had qualified eighth for the race, and was a bundle of energy. Following are edited excerpts from a longer conversation.

Jim Clash: What’s the most important thing you need to win a race like this?

Clint Bowyer: Confidence is everything. And there’s only one thing that breeds confidence. It's the speed in your racecar, what you achieved qualifying. When you look at where we are tonight - eighth - that’s not first or on the pole, but the qualifying times are crazy tight. I may have run a few tenths slower than the top seven, but we’re right there.

Clash: What’s Tony Stewart like to work for?

Bowyer: I can tell you this: He’s almost the perfect boss because he’s not always around [laughs]. He’s out racing his own stuff. Tony’s the total package as a race-car driver. If you think back to his career, there’s a reason why he’s in the [Nascar] Hall of Fame. Yes, he can get the job done behind the wheel, but he’s feisty, and an attractive driver to a sponsor.

Clash: What are you afraid of, and how do you handle fear?

Bowyer: The only thing I’m really afraid of, and the older you get the more it’s reality, is losing people. Literally, that’s the only thing I’m scared of. Sure, I’m scared of making a mistake on a restart, but truly deep down inside of your heart, it’s losing people that are close to you. Those are the crushing blows that make a mark on your life, and that you’ll have to navigate around.

Clash: What does Nascar need to do to keep growing?

Bowyer: We have great leadership with Jim France. There’s less bureaucracy now, and he’s really listening to the drivers and fans. He’s making adjustments to the Nascar empire, if you will, buying out the tracks and things like that. Sometimes, it’s something as simple as the Internet. Having wi-fi at a racetrack in today’s day and age - you just have to have it. That’s easy to fix at say, Daytona. But when we leave there we go to Atlanta, Fontana, Phoenix – we’re all over the damn place. To get wi-fi at all the tracks is a huge investment, but much needed. You go to a Talladega, and your phone won’t even work! In the world of social media, how can I post a video online for a partner if I can’t even make a call? So that’s just one prime example of the effort they are putting forth.

Clash: How important was your win at Martinsville last year after such a long drought?

Bowyer: I’m married now, I’ve got two kids, and it’s a whole new ball game. The year before, Cash, my son, came to me and said, “Dad, Owen’s dad [Kyle Larson] is in victory lane, when are you going to win?” Now you think you have personal pressure from within, or from bosses, partners and sponsors? Hell, no. I wanted to get that kid in victory lane, and we did last year at Martinsville. That’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me for my motivation.

Clash: How does someone race the likes of Kyle Busch?

Bowyer: Well, he’s a pain in the ass for everybody, on all fronts [laughs]. But he’s extremely talented, and extremely experienced. A lot of people discount the fact that he’s won all these races in trucks, the Xfinity Series – you know, that he’s beating up on the kids. But just look at the experience he’s gained racing against those kids over the years of his career. Just think of all the little things - pit road entry, etc., that he can take and put forth to Sunday. Kyle is one of those guys. There are superstars in the NFL. There are other quarterbacks that are winning games and are bad ass, but they still have to live up to Tom Brady.

(Editor's Note: While Clint Bowyer had qualified in the top 10 for the 2019 Coca-Cola 600, he ultimately finished 24th after having been involved in a crash late in the race.)

James M. (Jim) Clash, a New York-based journalist and Fellow at The Explorers Club, covers extreme adventure and culture. He owns a ticket to fly in space with Virgin Galactic.

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