Clint Bowyer, a driver with Cornelius-based Michael Waltrip Racing, ranks sixth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings with nine top 5 and 17 top 10 finishes.
He took time Oct. 28 to address the media during a NASCAR teleconference, answering questions about his future and his team’s morale after announcing that it will go from three to two teams next year.
Below are excerpts:
Coming off a third place finish at Martinsville over the weekend, how do you feel going into the final three races of the season?
Well, I mean, it was certainly a good run for us, a good shot in the arm, something our team needed. I was certainly a little bit – not a little bit – I was disappointed. I've been looking forward to Martinsville for a long time, and just come up a little short and flat-out got beaten.
But, nonetheless, it was a good run for us, a good momentum builder for our race team going into the last three races. You know, they're good tracks for us. I think a top 5 for our team with everything that we've gone through, you know, a top-5 finish in the Chase would be a great accomplishment and a goal for us, and that's what my mind is at right now.
If you would talk about Texas. What do you think your chances are on Sunday? And I know MWR has done testing last week. I wasn't sure if you got to participate in that or not, but what do you think of the track and what do you think the race will shape up to be?
I was. Definitely was at the test, had a good test. I was looking forward to getting down there. Obviously, it's a little bit different when you get down there. There is more rubber on the racetrack with more cars, trucks and stuff on the racetrack. But, nonetheless, we had good speed, stacked up good against the competition, and the car felt good, so looking forward to getting down there and hopefully having another solid run. We need a win, bad. That is one of the coolest places you can win.
Talk about your season. You said you want to get into the top 5. I would imagine that's a pretty important threshold to cross. But you look at your regular season, and you guys clinched early in the Chase, but you did it without leading a whole lot of laps. But looking at your results say since Bristol where you did go out and lead a bunch, you've led laps about every race since then. Is there something that's clicked for you guys that you all were out in front a lot more?
Well, we definitely turned the page when we went to these tracks for the second time. Had a good notebook of things what not to do and usually run better because of that in the past. But had a pretty good setback there for our organization and our race team and have been able to bounce back on that a little bit. Had a good run at Martinsville. Certainly haven't won a race, need to win a race desperately bad. I think we're definitely capable of winning one of these last three races, three good racetracks for us.
We've had a great season. Looking back on our season, I'm very proud of the season we've had. We've been consistent week-in and week-out, consistently up front for our sponsors first and foremost. We ran second in the points championship the whole last half of the season, so definitely a good year. Certainly missing that win column.
What is the morale like at Michael Waltrip? And considering all the different almost bizarre things that have happened in the last month and a half, with the start of the Chase and now Brian (Vickers) is hurt, and the uncertainty and things like that. How difficult has it been keeping everyone's eye on the prize and looking forward? Is that where you feel everyone's in a good place now moving ahead?
I don't know if everyone's at a good place, but I guess the biggest thing is we have a good game plan. You've got to be able to come up with a goal, set goals, come up with a plan of where do we go from here. Certainly, man, it's been a day-by-day thing. No more than I felt like we were turning the corner of trying to get past what happened in Richmond, and Brian out of the blue comes up with his illness. It was like oh, my God, not again. When does it stop?
But, nonetheless, very proud, to be honest with you, of where we're at considering all the circumstances. I mean, we're sixth in points. With all the distractions, all of the melees that have been going on with our organization, it just seems like it would have been very easy to get your eye off the ball and lose focus and not even completely be a factor at all.
I'm pleasantly surprised of the dedication and the hard work and the drive of everybody involved. It's just like us. We're leaving at 6 a.m. to head to Homestead to test for the next few days. This last week we've tested Texas. We've worked hard to get where we're at and the hard work and dedication will get us through all of this. The future will be brighter ahead.
On the same vein as previously mentioned, is 5-Hour Energy going to be with you next year?
Yeah. Yeah, they've already announced that.
What is your contract go for?
Through next year. We have one more year on my contract. I found a good home. I've said that before. It's a young organization. Mistakes have been made and those mistakes we've learned from them. I'm proud of where I'm at. I'm proud to be driving a Toyota. I'm proud of my race team. Proud of Brian Pattie being my crew chief.
Again, we've sure learned a lot this year, but I think all of those mistakes and occurrences will only make you stronger in the future. I mean, the setback of losing Martin Truex, he's not only a good teammate, he's a good friend. I've known him for a long time, and we've battled back and forth in the Nationwide days. Not having him around me is tough.
But, nonetheless, we've got a great game plan of scaling back to two cars and focusing on that. I mean, make no mistake, the team that won the championship last year only had two cars so this can be done. Two-car organizations can work.
I'm glad that they made the decision before we really tried to make three cars work and didn't have the means to do it. Definitely make sure that you are hitting on all these cylinders with what you have and making the most of what you have. I think that's what we're moving towards and our game plan.