It’s good that Clint Bowyer knows and appreciates his racing history, because he’s going to live it this Fourth of July weekend at the 111-year-old Indianapolis Motor Speedway when the NASCAR Cup Series holds its annual Brickyard 400.
Bowyer will drive the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Mustang co-owned by Gene Haas and the Hoosier-state’s favorite son, Tony Stewart, in the 27th annual Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400. Bowyer knows driving the three-time champion Stewart’s entry, which carries the No. 14 made famous at the Brickyard by four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt, is an honor and a lot to live up to.
While racing at Indy is no longer new for NASCAR, for the first time since 1969, the Cup Series has moved from its traditional July 4 weekend 400-mile race from Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway to Indianapolis.
“There’s just a lot of pride that goes into all those things,” said Bowyer, the 41-year old Emporia, Kansas native. “Driving that Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), and you know what Tony Stewart means at this track and to everyone at Indy. Carrying the No. 14 ratchets it up a whole other level. A.J. Foyt is a badass who is as cool outside the racecar as he was driving it. Two legendary drivers and a legendary car number. The fact we are doing this on the Fourth of July weekend makes it even better.”
Bowyer knows a win Sunday afternoon would top the list of his career accomplishments in the Cup Series. Only 15 drivers have their likeness on the Brickyard 400 trophy permanently housed in the track’s infield museum. History isn’t just limited to the competition on the track. Bowyer’s paint scheme Sunday will feature Rush Truck Centers and Cummins.
Rush Truck Centers has been the primary partner for the No. 14 team since Bowyer arrived at SHR in 2017 and has been with the organization since 2010. With Bowyer’s background working in his dad’s towing service in Emporia, Kansas, Bowyer understands the importance of keeping trucks up and running. That is why Rush is proud to partner with Bowyer and support the trucks that haul the racecars, as well as customers across the country with its total service management package, RushCare Complete. This all-inclusive solution provides dedicated concierge service, vehicle telematics, mobile service, express routine maintenance, real-time service updates and a comprehensive source for all-makes parts.
Cummins makes its second appearance of the 2020 season with Bowyer. The Indiana-based company from Stewart’s hometown of Columbus is no stranger to victory lane with its racing lineage dating back to the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911, when company founder Clessie Cummins was on the pit crew of the race-winning Marmon Wasp of driver Ray Harroun. Since its founding in 1919, the company now employs approximately 61,600 people and serves customers in about 190 countries and territories through a network of some 8,000 wholly owned and independent dealer and distributor locations.
While Cummins is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions, it is best known for its diesel truck engines.
“Rush Truck Centers is one of the biggest reasons we race and, through the years at SHR, we haven’t gotten to victory lane with them, yet,” Bowyer said. “So, when we do it’s going to be epic. Cummins has been to victory lane so many times and probably has more history at Indianapolis than just about anyone.”
Bowyer said Indy is a difficult track for the stock-car crowd, whose cars lack the downforce of their open-wheel counterparts in the IndyCar Series. The rectangular oval track includes two 5/8-mile straightaways and four nearly identical quarter-mile turns connected by short, eighth-mile straightaways. The turns are banked about nine degrees – far flatter than the 30-plus-degree banking at tracks like Daytona, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and others that are part of the NASCAR schedule.
“Indy is just so unique,” said Bowyer, who has posted back-to-back fifth-place finishes at Indy the last two years and four-top 10 finishes in 14 starts. “You’re going so fast. The corners are so flat. You’ve got to have that baby flat to the floor, all the way around. It’s just a hard, hard track to get around.”
He said the key to racing success there is managing risk behind the steering wheel.
“The challenge is trying to be patient,” Bowyer said. “You just have to be patient. You push it to the edge there. You come off of them corners and you’re like, ‘There’s no way. I’m gonna hit the wall. Whoo.’ By the way, I gotta do that 400 more miles.”
Sunday’s race marks the 12th Cup Series race since returning from a 10-week hiatus due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic May 17. As it did at the previous 11 races, NASCAR series and team personnel in the infield will continue to operate under a comprehensive health and safety plan at Indianapolis that permits no fans, limited crew, strict social distancing, and mandated personal protective equipment and health screenings for all.
While racing without fans is disappointing to Bowyer, he knows the race results are just as important. He arrives at Indianapolis 13th in points after finishing seventh and eighth in last weekend’s doubleheader at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.
Only 11 more races remain in what is expected to be NASCAR’s 26-race regular season. A win will vault Bowyer into the NASCAR playoffs that begin in September and secure a spot in the NASCAR All-Star Race July 15 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Without a win between now and July 15, Bowyer will race in the NASCAR All-Star Open with hopes a good run will transfer him to the All-Star Race.
As a backup plan, he is relying on the online fan vote that will send the most popular remaining driver from the Open to the All-Star Race. Fans can cast their ballots daily for Bowyer at NASCAR.com/fanvote, or by clicking here.
Bowyer knows there’s a lot on the line Sunday at Indianapolis. He also knows he has history on his side.