THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today’s NASCAR teleconference. We’re going to open with Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. Bowyer sits 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings heading into this weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. A track where he boasts two wins, a pole and four Top 10 finishes. Immediately following Clint, we’ll be joined by Michael Waltrip Racing teammate, Brian Vickers.
Clint, MWR is in the midst of its best season yet with all cars very competitive week-in and week-out, highlighted by your recent win at Sonoma. Can you talk about how well your team is working together and has gelled this year from crew chief Brian Pattie to the road and pit crews?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, absolutely. Couldn’t ask for a better situation to step into as all three MWR teams, as you said, were firing on all eight cylinders. Really working together. Team work is everything, and with a multi-car team that we have, it’s just so crucial that everybody works together and is pulling on the rope in the same direction. That’s what’s going on. It’s just fun. Fun to be a part of it.
Like you said, our win was big for our organization, for our team in particular, our 5-hour ENERGY Toyota. The last couple of weekends have not been very good. Daytona was kind of a disaster for us, but looking forward to getting into New Hampshire where I usually have a pretty good run.
Q. With you and Truex through 18 races, I was hoping you could take us back through the decision to sign with Waltrip. This is a team that had never put a team in the Chase. So is there any hesitance to sign with them because of that or any doubts in your mind whether the organization had the pieces in place to get to this level so quickly?
CLINT BOWYER: I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t. Certainly there was a lot of concern and worry on my part. But most of that was put to bed in discussions, in learning what the game plan was, what was coming down the pike for MWR. Then everything that was being put together, having Brian Pattie as a crew chief, having Scott Miller come over as the competition director was someone that was influential in my decision. He’s a guy that I had a lot of confidence in. I’ve worked with him in the past at RCR and knew his thought process, and knew what was kind of fixing to be happening at MWR on the competition side.
They’ve always done such a good job at the marketing side of it and taking care of sponsors. I knew when I had 5-hour ENERGY and was looking for a home for the both of us, that as far as the sponsor side of it goes, they’d be taken care of.
So very glad, very happy to be in a situation we are in, as you said. Martin and I are both having pretty good years. All three cars are. Mark Martin almost won Pocono. Martin almost won Kansas. Then we finally got a win at Sonoma. So we’ve all had our time in the sun, and it’s just been a really enjoyable ride so far.
Q. Talking about the transition that you made, this time last year there were a lot of unknowns for you like you were talking about, and now you’re settled in at Michael Waltrip Racing. Have there been things that have happened over the past half season that you’ve looked back on now and thought, wow, this is kind of neat the way all of this worked out for me, and the way MWR does stuff as opposed to what I was used to at RCR?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, absolutely. Every week I have that wow factor, and maybe even a little sense of surprise at times. I really, really enjoyed the way the crew chiefs, the way engineers and the way TRD steps in and works together. They really, really focus on getting a good package built for us. They’ve just done a great job of working together, and that is something that I think has probably been the best thing for me so far. Just having all those people that I know are pulling in the same direction and getting the most out of a weekend.
But the racer in you looks back the last few months and Daytona is the most recent. I wish I had a couple of things to do over again to try to get through that wreck differently. At the beginning of the year at Phoenix we had a tire issue, two in a row, actually, and ended up with a horrible finish, and we blew up at Kansas running well in the race. You look at those three races right there, and without those bad runs that we had there, we’d be looking really, really good.
But that’s what you focus on. You can’t help it. You always look at the bad weekends and look back and try to figure out.
Q. Looking ahead at your Cup career, the wins that you’ve had, you’ve had a couple at New Hampshire, Richmond, Talladega, and the Sonoma win. The mile and a half track seemed absent in the win column for you. That’s going to play an important factor when the Chase comes around. How do you feel about that program right now? Are there things you feel you still need to work on?
CLINT BOWYER: Certainly the mile and a halves are my struggle as a driver and kind of been that way my whole career. The short tracks and things like that are my bread and butter. But certainly I’ve run better already this early in the season than I probably ever did at RCR on a mile and a half.
I think we can win as a group, win as a team with our 5-hour ENERGY Toyota on a mile and a half, and I think we can do it this year.
Looking forward to the challenge. I know we’ve got some new cars being built and some good things going. We’ve got to keep on improving, and I have to do the same as a race car driver.
Q. How much has Mark and Michael helped you in your racing career since going to Michael Waltrip Racing?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, Michael gave me a job. Mark, what an awesome teammate, what a huge asset to have that I didn’t necessarily know that I had going in. That was a blessing after I was all signed up and done. They come and say what do you think about Mark Martin for a teammate and I’m like, holy cow, are you kid ding? What an awesome teammate to have. So determined, so driven, so focused, and at his age to keep digging and get the results that he gets is just incredible.
He is unbelievable in the race car, but he’s actually probably even better than that outside the race car, working with the teams, communication, he’s just very, very driven.
Q. Coming into New Hampshire where you won before, what might you do differently going into a racetrack where you know you’re good at?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, you go into that race with a lot more confidence, obviously, than some of the tracks we probably should have won last year there. Ran out of gas with two to go leading and won the first one. So it’s just one of those tracks where I feel like we can win again at, but more importantly, we can get things steered back in the right direction like we had through the month of June. We had a lot of solid runs right there, and that’s what it takes, especially at this point in the year. We had the win. If we can get ourselves another win t would be huge. But the biggest thing is don’t do something stupid and knock ourselves out of this Chase.
Q. You heard what happened to Allmendinger, and he said today that he wouldn’t knowingly take a prohibited substance?
CLINT BOWYER: I was wondering when this question was going to happen, and it’s you, Bob. Why is it always you?
Q. I don’t know. I was curious how much — like if you’re taking medication or just looking at any sort of supplements and everything, how much do you worry about what you’re taking and how often do you talk to NASCAR if you have questions about whether you should take something or not?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, certainly, if I had something that was a prescription or something, we’d have to tell them. The only thing I’ve ever taken is Ibuprofen for a headache, so it’s something I don’t know a lot about. It’s an unfortunate thing for everybody in the sport.
I feel bad for everybody involved with that thing it’s just something that everybody’s waiting around to hear what happens next. I’m no different than you.
Q. I take it your philosophy is just don’t take anything and you’re safe, only in rare circumstances would you actually take something that you’d have to go to them and ask about and really wonder about.
CLINT BOWYER: I’ve never had to, yeah. Like I said an Excedrin goes a long ways for a headache. I’ve been pretty fortunate to be healthy, so I don’t have to take anything.
Q. I was talking to Ryan Newman’s team, and there are going to be people now that don’t have a lot to lose that are going to go for it straight. They have to. As we get closer and closer to the cutoff with people that need to win, do you think that will be evidence that we’ll see a ramping up of people not having a lot to lose?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, there are certainly guys on that bubble trying to race their way in that don’t have anything to lose. They’re probably not going to be able to race their way in on points, and the only way to get in is to win. So they’ll be throwing some gambles out there.
But it’s not like they’re going to go out and wreck people and take chances that way. You just can’t. Everybody in this sport gives a hundred percent. The drivers, the teams, the crew chiefs, everybody does the best that they can absolutely do. That’s why it’s a good product. That’s why it’s good racing, and that’s why hundreds of thousands of people come watch us race every weekend.
That being said, there is a gamble, fuel mileage or something like that, somebody’s going to stretch it and go for it, especially being in that situation.
Q. If you take last week at Daytona, you could almost feel when a switch is flipped. I mean, you guys don’t all agree to it at one time, but all of a sudden it seems something changes and, Bam, everyone’s after it.
CLINT BOWYER: That is a sense of urgency. That is just plate racing. You get down to 30, 40 laps to go, and you’ve got to get yourself halfway in a situation where you can compete for a win, even a good finish. I rode around there in the back with 40 to go, and here I am looking ahead. It’s three-wide in front of me, several rows deep, you’ve got a decision to make. Somehow you have to get yourself up to the front if you’re going to have a shot at winning.
The other decision is to lag back there and pray and hope they do wreck. But if they don’t wreck, you’re going to look like a fool riding around in the back all day long and finish back there too.
Q. That switch that’s flipped in plate racing, we’ve had long green flag runs and all of a sudden, it gets into contention, and people don’t have anything to lose and they get crazy, and sort of a switch of intensity will be flipped?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, okay (laughing). I mean, it could. Like I said, there is a lot on the line each and every weekend. We’re all out here to win every weekend, everybody is in the same category with the same goal in mind. It’s very hard to do. This is the most competitive thing I’ve ever been a part of in any kind of racing, any kind of event I’ve ever done in my life. It’s unbelievable how close the racing action is on the racetrack, and how difficult it is to get the most out of your stimulation, out of your engineering program and everything else, to get the most out of your people. It’s just very, very, very tight right now in this sport.
Q. The win at Sonoma not only put you on the map this season but MWR as a whole has kind of been underrated. So how is the momentum at the shop for you, the guys, and the team in general? It has to be a big boost of morale.
CLINT BOWYER: It is. Just to see — it meant a lot to me. That’s one thing that I think people realize. But what it meant to MWR, everybody sees that. Their first win in a long time. They’ve made a huge investment and commitment to this sport, especially in the last year. They’ve brought on two new drivers. They’ve expanded in a situation that most teams are pulling back. They’ve spent more dollars and expanded. Like I said, made a big commitment.
So to see that pay off for them was very, very gratifying. For me, going to a new team with so many unknowns and concerns, to get all that put to bed early in the season and run well and to get that win was just huge.
That being said, you’re right back to me, as a racer, crashed last weekend at Daytona, had a poor finish, fell back a couple spots in the points, and now I’m back on the worry train again. It’s just the way racing is. It’s a very humbling sport.
Q. You’re sitting tenth in the points with that win so far this year. We’re at the halfway point in the season. When the season started, did you expect to be this good or have you exceeded expectations so far?
CLINT BOWYER: I think we’ve exceeded all expectations. That’s MWR across the board. That’s not because I didn’t think that they were capable or anything else. But it’s off the simple facts that they’ve never produced these kind of results before. But very proud and excited to be a part of it. This is a new chapter in my book so to make it a good one here so far this season has been gratifying and a lot of fun.
Q. Now that we’re at the halfway point and you’ve had such a good first half of the season, are expectations raised a little bit for the second half? What do you expect going forward from here and looking towards the second half of the season?
CLINT BOWYER: Usually I win later in the year. So to have that victory early, relatively early in the season for me was cool, really fun, and it changes expectations, yes. Now I feel like we can make this Chase. I feel like we can compete in this Chase and be a Top 5 team within the Chase.
I think as competitive as this sport is right now, if you’re a Top 5 team the chase, you’re going to have a shot at a championship.
Q. When you get out of the car, are you looking at points? How much do you try to pay attention to the horse race, and how much do you try not to pay attention to it?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, two weeks ago if you asked me that, I wasn’t looking at all. You obviously have a bad race, and I guess it’s human nature to look. But we’re fine. We’ve got a good pad on 11th place or whatever. We’re running well. Things are good.
You can’t control what happened last weekend at Daytona. It was a bad deal. We got crashed at Kentucky the week before, and got lucky and salvaged a halfway decent run. Daytona, you’re riding around there, trying to do everything I could do to stay out of trouble, and I waited until the end to try to get up through them, and I got caught up that wreck. It’s just the nature of the beast there. You either leave Daytona happy or you leave there frustrated and pretty much pissed off. It was my turn to be pissed off.
Q. You’ve had experience being on the bubble before. Do you feel like your guys have had experience and is there anything you’ll try to do with them over the next eight races to make sure they don’t crack under the pressure?
CLINT BOWYER: I think the key is to maintain the level of confidence. The level of comfort that we’ve had with one another. To keep it fun is a big thing. It gets stressful. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on a team that’s on a bubble and making that Chase. It’s so important to everything we do – sponsors, owners, everybody. Everybody gives it their all, but you’ve got to keep them calm so they can they can make the right decisions they have to make and do the same thing yourself. That’s all you can do.
Q. What are some of the things you do differently maybe going from a Daytona type of track to going to a short track like New Hampshire?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, just everything. Daytona in those plate tracks, they’re so much different than anything we do. It’s almost like an off weekend and going to a different form of everything for everybody involved. It’s kind of escalated to where there is so much technology. The research side of it that goes into those cars well before they’re there, that by the time you get there, you don’t go out and practice anymore. You don’t pick up anything because it’s already as fast as they can possibly make it. It’s been to the desert, and it’s been in the wind tunnel countless times. It’s smooth and stealthy and slick as you can possibly make it. So you kind of just get there and wait for the race and hopefully you get that thing back to the shop in one piece.
But for New Hampshire, there is a lot that goes into that. I mean, a totally different car. The weight is low and to the left as much as you can get it and make a light race car. Make it hold as much lead as you can possibly get in it. It’s just a completely different type of racing all together.
Q. I wanted to ask you, how instrumental has your success and the team’s success been put on Scott Miller this year coming to MWR?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, quite a bit. I had a lot of confidence in Scott Miller and knowing that he was going to be the competition director, knowing the direction that he was going to steer the ship. However, that being said, both Scott Miller and myself walked into a pretty good situation that was guided in the right direction before we got there. You could see it.
When we got there, through meetings, through talks, through talking to the engineering staff, TRD, through talking to Martin Truex, I mean, there are just so many things there that build a lot of confidence in both of us, well before we ever got there, that we were going to be all right.
Q. We were talking about plate racing a moment ago, and we’ve seen two very different styles the last three years. Which did you prefer? The tandems where you had to rely on communicating with the teammate or the style of pack racing where you kind of control your own destiny, yet at the same time, you have to watch your temperatures?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, I totally think that’s exactly opposite. I think with the tandem racing, you can control your destiny way more than you can now. Right now I’m not a fan of pack racing because you literally are riding around there, waiting for the wreck and praying that you get through it. That’s just the way it is these days.
I don’t mind either way. I was better at the tandem racing. Felt like I could do good at getting the cars connected, keeping them connected. You could pull the other two cars that you were passing apart from each other. You could just do so much more. It was a lot more strategy, and a lot more technique involved in that style of racing. But I saw where a fan wouldn’t like that. If I was sitting there watching a race and didn’t have a dog in the fight or anything that I was connected to in any way, I would have loved that race last Saturday night.
But I have a lot of points, a lot of pressure, and a lot of things that hinge on us getting a good finish there, and hopefully making the Chase and having a good season. So it’s too important to have a race, in my opinion, that you’re just riding around waiting for a wreck and hope you get through it.
Q. Just curious next week after New Hampshire you have an off week from Cup. Do you have any special plans? How valuable has that downtime become to all of you as the schedule fills up more and more?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, I’m doing our annual charity golf tournament because it’s the only off weekend that I can have it. So going back to my hometown and doing that, wishing we could get back to having at least two, that way you could go on vacation one of them. But it is what it is. We’ve loved what we’re doing and a pretty good opportunity to get paid and make a living doing what you love. So that opportunity doesn’t come around in life every day.
That being said, we’re proud of our golf tournament, and have a lot of fun and always raise a lot of money for our hometown. Looking forward to it.
Q. Matt Kenseth is going to a new team next year. How much does a driver go into a race or second half of a season knowing that they’re going to be with a different team next year? Can you maybe talk about how the team changes things up or if they keep focused?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, I think, hey, he’s too good of a driver and too good of a talent to worry too much about that. I think they’re still leading the points. That being said, here you are the points leader, and probably going to go to — not probably, but definitely are going to a different team next year. But I look for him to possibly — it would be big if he could win a championship and say, all right, See ya. I’m racing for somebody else next year. That would make a big statement.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us today. Best of luck this weekend in New Hampshire.
CLINT BOWYER: Thank you.
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