Anything less than battling for a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title is a disappointment for Clint Bowyer, but he also recognizes the progress his No. 14 Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has made since replacing three-time champion and now co-car owner Tony Stewart in 2017. As the Cup Series prepares for the final race of the year in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Bowyer sees many positives from his third season driving for SHR.
“We had some good runs and tough runs this year,” said Bowyer, who enters Sunday’s finale 11th in points, just 16 behind 10th-place William Byron and 45 behind ninth-place Brad Keselowski. “But, everybody worked hard all year and kept at it.”
Bowyer so far has earned seven top-five finishes, 17 top-10s and a pole position in 2019. Last weekend at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, he finished eighth, the second-highest-finishing non-playoff driver.
“We started slow out of the box as we got used to the new cars, then we ran good through May but we just couldn’t get away from bad luck during the summer months,” he said. “All summer long, it was one crummy thing after another and just a letdown – a strong run only to be let down with something crazy happening. We picked it up as we got near the playoffs and, once we were in, we ran well and made it through the first round.”
Bowyer advanced to the Round of 12 but fell a few points short of advancing into the Round of 8 mainly due to bad luck during the round’s second race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. He won the first stage of the race and looked to be one of the favorites to win overall as the race progressed. However, Bowyer cut a tire midway through the race that sent the No. 14 into a spin and left him stuck for two laps where the apron and banking met on the track.
It took away any chance for victory and his best chance of moving into the next round of the playoffs.
“In the playoffs, we stepped up in a big way,” he said. “Not having a points pad or anything like that and going into those rounds was difficult. Those guys had 20 or 30 points on us. Had we not got stuck on the track in Talladega, we would be right there. We knew that was the opportunity, but unfortunately it just wasn’t our day.”
While Bowyer, whose race start at Talladega was the 500th of his career, does his best to secure the first victory of the season this weekend and finish in the top-10 in points for the sixth time in his career, he does have a rooting interest Sunday night as his SHR teammate Kevin Harvick attempts to bring the 11-year-old team its third title. Bowyer, who was also a teammate to Harvick at Richard Childress Racing from 2006 to 2011, said he has no doubt Harvick and the No. 4 team can win the championship again.
“Those guys are good,” Bowyer said. “You saw what Kevin did at Texas in the closing laps, and he was up there at Phoenix. I expect that same Kevin Harvick on Sunday. He has a good team, crew, SHR, Roush-Yates engines and Ford behind him, so he’s showing up with the best of everything in Homestead.”
It’s fitting that Bowyer’s No. 14 Mustang ends the season this weekend carrying the decals of Rush Truck Centers and Haas Automation – the two sponsors that most often appeared on the car in 2019.
Rush Truck Centers has been the primary partner on the No. 14 team since Bowyer arrived at SHR in 2017 and has been with the organization since 2010. The Texas-based company has used Bowyer and the team to appeal to NASCAR fans as one way to recruit the technicians it needs to operate the largest network of commercial truck and bus dealerships in the country, with locations in 22 states. According to Rush Truck Centers, the trucking industry is expected to need 200,000 diesel technicians over the next 10 years to keep up with maintenance demands. Rush Truck Centers wants to make NASCAR fans aware of these opportunities.
Haas Automation is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. Founded by Gene Haas in 1983, Haas Automation manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are built in the company’s 1.1 million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.
As the 2019 Cup Series season comes to an end, Bowyer is already looking forward to 2020. He and SHR agreed to an extension and he’ll return behind the wheel of the No. 14 when the 2020 season commences Feb. 16 with the Daytona 500. Just as important, Bowyer seems happy with his station in life and career as a driver – and thankful.
“I love what I do,” he said. “I just love the people. I’ve always loved people. I grew up, my father owns a towing business. You’re always out meeting people and, when you meet them, they’re people not necessarily in the best of moods or the best of situations. They’ve either wadded their car up or the damn thing has let them down, or they’ve had a flat tire, run it out of gas, something. You’re always helping somebody out of bad situation, but nonetheless I was always in and out of truck shops.
“You talk about a perfect fit with Rush Truck Centers. That’s literally what I grew up doing. I remember being a little kid and pulling into a Peterbilt shop with my old man with one on the back of it and rolling into a truck shop and getting that thing fixed and unloading it. You’re always around people, so when you come to something like this, it’s like a candy store for me. All the fans and interacting with them, whether they like you or hate you, it’s still fun, it’s still a fun interaction.”