In his 16 years of racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, Clint Bowyer has sported dozens of paint schemes in many colors, but none like he’ll drive Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway when the 41-year-old former race winner makes his final appearance at the historic, half-mile track in Southern Virginia.
Bowyer announced on Oct. 9 that he will retire from full-time racing and join the FOX television booth in 2021. To commemorate his career, Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford Mustang fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) on Sunday will carry 58 logos of nearly every major sponsor that appeared on a Bowyer racecar during his tenures at Richard Childress Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and SHR.
“SHR allowed us to run this paint scheme at Martinsville as a way to say ‘thank you’ to all my current and past sponsors,” said Bowyer, who will close out his full-time racing career at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 8. “Along with the fans, it’s our corporate partners that allow the drivers and race teams to do what we do each weekend. If it wasn’t for the support of all these people, we wouldn’t be able to race.”
Bowyer’s car will feature his 2020 partners at SHR on the hood while carrying 43 brand logos on the decklid that date back to his first full NASCAR Cup Series season in 2006. Since his first start in 2005, when he ran one race, Bowyer has run 539 races, earning 10 victories, 82 top-five finishes and 225 top-10s. Bowyer hopes to add to those totals when he returns Sunday to Martinsville, where he owns a victory, six top-fives and 16 top-10s in 29 races.
While Bowyer is closing out his full-time driving schedule, he remains highly competitive. He arrives in Martinsville after finishing 17th at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth in a race that began Sunday afternoon but didn’t finish until Wednesday night because of persistent rain. Bowyer won the first stage, led 89 laps and held the lead until he was forced to make an extra fuel stop with just 25 laps remaining.
He wouldn’t mind a little redemption at Martinsville. Not only does he like the flat, .526-mile oval, it’s sort of a home race for the native of Emporia, Kansas, as his current residence is in nearby Clemmons, North Carolina.
“It’s 40 minutes from the house,” he said. “It’s just a fun, fun weekend. Fun racetrack. It’s old-school racing at its finest.
“When I went there the first couple of seasons in the sport, that was the one racetrack that I couldn’t wait to leave. I was terrible. I hated it, every aspect of it. Everything in your natural tendencies as a racecar driver doesn’t hold true there. Alright, I have to pass this guy in front of me. Well, I have to get in the corner deeper than him, I have to pick up the gas sooner than him, and both of those things took me about 27 times there before I ever figured it out.”
In 2018, Bowyer notched one of his most memorable victories when he dominated the 500-lap race by leading 215 laps on his way to ending his 190-race winless streak. It was his first victory at SHR, and he climbed from his No. 14 Ford on the frontstretch and looked to his left to see his wife Lorra and daughter Presley, led by then 3-year-old son Cash running from turn four toward “Dad.”
He couldn’t resist running toward his family.
“You know, I make fun of these other drivers sometimes for having tears in victory lane, but I’ve got to admit that moment got to me,” Bowyer said with a laugh about embarking on a raucous victory celebration that saw him climb into the stands with the Martinsville fans who stayed in Southern Virginia an extra day because snow canceled the race scheduled for the previous day.
“Cash was young enough that he had never been to victory lane before, so it was his first chance to be there,” Bowyer said. “That’s something I always wanted to make happen.”
Bowyer said Cash still asks him when he’s going back to victory lane. He’d love to Sunday and carry all the logos of the corporations that have made his career possible.