NASCAR Media Conference
May 1, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone, welcome to today's two‑part NASCAR CAM video teleconference. We are going to open with Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 15 Aaron's Alabama National Championship Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. Bowyer has four Top 10 finishes this season and currently sits 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver standings.
Immediately following Clint, we'll be joined by his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate, Martin Truex Jr.
Clint, to start off, I'll ask you a few questions. You're going to be driving a special University of Alabama National Championship paint scheme this weekend at Talladega Super Speedway, along with the helmet depicting the image of iconic Alabama head coach Paul Bear Bryant. What does it mean to you to carry this image which to many throughout the years has become a symbol of excellence, termination, and victory?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, it was actually my idea about the helmet. I always have icons on the back of my helmets. I've had them on my helmet all year long. Trying to think of something to do with Alabama, it was only fitting to have Bear Bryant on the back of it. So it's a pretty cool helmet that Nick Pastura painted for me.
I just want to get down there and hopefully have the same success we've had over the past couple of years. Talladega is good to me, had a lot of fun there, and I can't think of anything bigger than to win in Talladega Alabama than with the Alabama car.
Q. Clint, how do you expect the style of racing to evolve this time at Talladega after what we saw at Daytona?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, I think it's going to be more of the same of what we saw at, Daytona. Exactly that and probably a little bit more, more in room to get away with moves and things that you do on the racetrack. Temperatures are quite a bit higher than we had at Daytona, so it's going to be interesting to see if we have any temperature problems, and, if we do, what adjustments will be made to fix that and to help us along.
It's such a fine line. We all get what they're trying to accomplish to keep us from two car tandems. But also we can't be overheating running in the pack as well. It's a very fine line right there. Probably whatever rule, they'll still have to manage that very situation of running in the pack and not overheating until the time's right and go for it.
Q. First of all, are you a fan of the Crimson Tide since you're going to have their paint scheme on your car? Secondly, with temperatures predicted to be close to 90 on Sunday for the race and the pressure setting on the cooling system supposed to be the same as Daytona, where it was significantly cooler for the race, do you think overheating is going to be a much bigger problem this weekend and do you think it will maybe just wipe out tandem racing all together until maybe the last lap?
CLINT BOWYER: First of all, I'm from Kansas so I'm a pretty big KU fan. I think everybody knows that. But the Alabama partnership came along with Aaron's, and the SEC partnership that they have after they had Alabama on it, and winning the National Championship this year. Certainly a KU fan, but respect all athletics and certainly respect what they've accomplished in the past years. It's going to be fun to have the Alabama colors for one day.
Then the overheating issue, I just kind of alluded to it before. We'll see what all of that entails. You get down there and everybody's overheating. I'm sure NASCAR has some provisions built in there to make adjustments, if necessary, and make it right for all of us.
Q. In the wake of Richmond there's been a lot of talk about restarts and how they're handled. I just want your take. When you're leading a race and choosing the lane and doing all of that and being told you're the leader, how does that process work with you as the leader communicating with NASCAR about how the restart's going to take place?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, first of all, that was really a different set of circumstances that we see. That is definitely not normal. It really shook the race up in a bad way, unfortunately. It wasn't just the leaders. That's what you saw on TV.
It was chaos all the way through the field. Nobody knew what lap they were on. Some cars were not even a lap down and ended up two laps down. There was a lot that happened right there at a really unfortunate time that really shook the race up and created some chaos there.
But as far as the restarts go, if you're the leader, you get to pick a lane. I think everybody understands when you go over the line, the pylon, it shows who went over there first. Certainly under caution, you're warming your tires up and trying to get your brakes heated up. You'll go by there every now and then before the leader, but you understand who the leader is.
But, again, going back to what happened there and how everything took place, the timing there, there were a lot of unknowns and uncertainties all the way through the field.
As far as the start line, there is a double line and a single line. You get in between it. Carl is my buddy, but he definitely got antsy on that restart. Unfortunately, the Goodyear Blimp was in the air, and it showed it really, really bad. Had that camera angle not have been on there, it probably wouldn't have looked at that.
Q. Not to put you on the spot, but is that a situation where maybe another lap of yellow or two would help sort out the field, or is that too much to ask of NASCAR when they're trying to get the race run?
CLINT BOWYER: Not really. I think they had a decent handle on where everybody was. But everybody did it themselves. It was just bad timing. I don't know if you rolled around there ten more laps, if everybody, even if they had everybody where they were supposed to be. You're still going to have people that weren't happy about it and thought it should have been different.
That's what you're up against with being a sanctioning body. Your computer or facts are right in front of you. Not everybody has those facts and thinks they should be some place they're not and vice versa. It's a bad situation to happen there. Fortunately, we don't see it very often.
Q. About your friend Carl, when you're the leader and you have somebody next to you, are there games that get played even when you're second and there is another guy leading next to you? Are there games that get played when you come to the line like that?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, there certainly is. Richmond is one of those tracks where the restart is very difficult. You're kind of turning as you're going, so you're a lot more apt to spin your tires. That outside guy, nine times out of ten, has a disadvantage in my opinion of keeping up. Not even thinking about what happens when you get into one obviously on the restart, the preferred line is on the bottom of turn one, and probably the quickest way around the track until you get strung out and the tires start wearing out. Coming off of turn four, and the track being turned like that, that inside guy can really go straight, and the outside guy has to kind of match his speed and also try to put the throttle down while turning, which kind of promotes wheel spin.
The other thing is for whatever reason, the start is a short track, so those two lines at Richmond seem like they're really, really close compared to your speed and other racetracks that we go to. So it seems like there more than anything it is a difficult place to get restarted.
Q. You had two wins in your last three Talladega races. How much of that is a good car and great Clint Bowyer driving, and how much is good fortune?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, it's all three of those things equally as much. You've got to have all of them. You have to have a car capable of doing it. You have to be as a driver, in that situation to have that opportunity, and you have to have a little luck to see it play through. That is restrictor plate racing right there in a nutshell.
It seems like with the two‑car tandems, you could manipulate that a little bit more. You could control what was going on and have a game plan and see it out more than you do now. It seems like if you get behind, you can be the best driver in the world with the fastest car. If the hole's not there, you can't make one. If they're three and trying four‑wide in front of you and you've got a big head of steam coming, there is nothing can you do but checkup and fall back in line.
It is kind of a difficult situation in my opinion riding around there on your own. Obviously, as a race car driver, you want control all by yourself. But I kind of liked the team work and working with each other and getting the most out of each other and making a game plan, and working on it, perfecting it, and seeing it play out at the end. It was pretty fun and gratifying for me.
Q. How do you look back on those last three races? Do you look back in amazement that everything kind of fell into place like that, or do you go in this weekend and say there is still more good fortune left?
CLINT BOWYER: I certainly hope there is more. It would be big and well‑needed right now. I think, again, we had fast race cars. My teammate and I. Didn't matter who it was. We could stay up front.
But the biggest thing was I felt like I got good at manipulating other cars around us. If we had faster cars, we could let them have the inside and pull them apart. We could stay in the lead. We could do things to stay up front. All the while you were learning and perfecting what you were doing together as a team, to put it to good use at the end. It seemed those cars that lagged back and tried to go for it at the end really got up there and weren't ready for the situation they were in. Nine times out of ten, either broke apart or got in a wreck and didn't weren't there for the taking when the time was right.
Like I said, the rules have changed now. It's back to every man for himself again, you've got to have a fast race car, put it in the right situation, and have a little bit of luck to see it play out. Same principles apply?
Q. Wanted to ask you about your dirt late model team, and Jonathan Davenport. I know you brought him on this season. What kind of things did you see out of him that made you feel like he was the guy to add to your team?
>> Well, certainly when I was looking for a driver, Jonathan Davenport is on the top of anybody's list. His accomplishments speak for themselves. He's up front wherever he's at. He's well spoken. He takes care of business off the racetrack were sponsors. To keep a great sponsor like we have with Georgia Boot.
When I had Georgia Boot on board and we were trying to put together a package, I just thought Jonathan Davenport was, you know, our perfect situation and perfect fit for that.
The relationship he had with Barry Wright, when I hired Jonathan Davenport, and the success he's had in those Barry Wright cars, I thought it was important to keep that marriage alive. And very fortunate we've been able to do that. With doing that, we've been able to not only keep Jonathan where he's been we were able to escalate my other driver, Jarrod landers, and get him running better as well.
So it's just kind of worked together. It's amazing what one piece of the puzzle will do. Putting Jonathan in that car and switching a couple things around, we've found a lot of success in a short amount of time.
Q. What did it mean? Obviously, the first couple races of the season, Jonathan Wins‑‑ kind of been looking for wins now since, but to start off with the beginning of the season with a couple of early wins?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, it was amazing. We switched over to Roush Yates engines and went out and won the first two races in front of the box. It was like holy cow, what a great idea this was.
But, certainly points racing, and running in the Lucas Oil Late Model series is something very difficult. Something that Jonathan hasn't done before. So there are going to be growing pains in that. But couldn't be happier with the way he's performed so far.
Q. After spending your career at RCR and you've settle into Michael Waltrip Racing and understanding what goes on around that race shop, how are things different? Are there things that you like more about it? What changed, I guess?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, everything's different. But it's kind of the same. As much as they're different, they're exactly the same. You still have to build race cars and build them to the best of their ability and go on and win races the same goals apply. But it is amazing the mentality and the thought process, how everything's different.
That was a hard adjustment to get used to. Anything as simple as the way they scale a car. I remember going to the first test and seeing them scale a car. It was lining, well, that's not right. You get to thinking about it, and it's like well, it's the same thing, just a different way of doing it. It still gets to the same destination.
So it was kind of difficult and weird to get used to some of those things. But I tell you, it's been a breath of fresh air. I've really enjoyed the people I'm working with. I love my crew chief; I think he's done a great job. My teammates. It's just a perfect recipe right now going on at NWR.
Q. Talking about Talladega, one of the other changes they got made for restrictor plate racing was the fact that you guys cannot intercommunicate with each other. How big a deal was that for Daytona? Is that going to make any difference when we see this race start at Talladega?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, it's not a really big difference now that we can't two‑car tango. You don't have those two‑car packs anymore like we did last year and leading up to that. They've changed the cooling and the pop off valves and things like that. The cars overheat way before they used to. You used to be able to go around there nonstop and have to switch every now and then. You can't even make a lap anymore.
So the advantage is gone from that two‑car pack. As many times as you have to swap and change the lead car, the pack is faster than those two cars breaking away. So it kind of eliminated that as far as the communication and stuff like that goes.
It's kind of every man for himself. You get yourself in the right situation, and be lucky enough to get the right push and hopefully be there at the end of that thing.
Q. I was wondering, how is the mood different at Daytona in July versus February?
CLINT BOWYER: It's definitely different. Especially this year for me. I was down there with a whole new crowd. I didn't know people's names. I didn't know anything of the people that were surrounding me other than just the core people that make things happen. It was definitely awkward being down there this year in February.
Looking forward to going back in July and having a strong run. Our cars are running good. The TRD power seems to be improving, and we can get a restrictor plate win on these tracks.
Q. Does the July weekend have more of a vacation feel where the February speed weeks is more serious and down to business?
CLINT BOWYER: I don't know. Not necessarily for me, because I look at speed weeks as a vacation destination if you're a race fan. There is so much going on. Obviously the July race is vacation time. School is out, and everybody's vacationing in the middle of the summer.
But I'm telling you, for our race fans, the vacation time is, in my opinion, speed week. You've got so much more racing going on. If it's not going on at the big track, it's going on at New Smyrna or East Bay over in Tampa. There is just a lot of racing going on that time of the year.
Q. You've had Chase positions before with RCR. Is it any different that you've got a Chase position with Michael Waltrip Racing?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, certainly we've got to get ourselves in there and be a part of that Chase. If we do that, it's going to be very, very gratifying to be able to do that with a new team, and a place where they've never been in the Chase before, it would be very, very fulfilling and gratifying and man, I hope we can do it.
Q. As far as the time of year, do you think there is any difference of achievement early or that middle of the year or come on strong at the end of the year?
CLINT BOWYER: I tell you, to be a part of that Chase is so elite anymore. If you're in it on points, you're one of the Top 10 teams. And man there's more than ten good teams that can win a Championship in the series anymore.
If you're in that Top 10, you're in it because you've been solid from the green flag at Daytona all the way to Richmond. It wasn't because you had a good run for three or four weeks. But you're going to be on your A‑game each and every week to be part of the Chase for a Championship.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us today. We very much appreciate it. Wish you the best of luck this weekend in Talladega.
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