NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Toyota/Save Mart 350
Topics: Toyota/Save Mart 350
June 24, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We welcome Michael Waltrip, team owner for Clint Bowyer, the race winner and we also welcome crew chief Brian Pattie. Clint Bowyer is missing, so that was good timing on your guys' part, you want to get your championship glory celebrating in before he got here I guess.
Michael, we'll start with you, talk about this is Clint's first win at Sonoma, exciting race today. So talk about being the car owner and your thoughts on today's race.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: This place just reminds me on how mightily Michael Waltrip Racing struggled when we started back in 2007. We came here and put Terry Labonte in my car just so we could be sure of making the race.
Talked to Robby Gordon about driving for us and that was just five short years ago that we were here and wondering what our future was like and how we were going to survive. We probably appreciate this more than anybody ever could, because we know how close we were to just not being around any more, just six months out of our start.
So to stand up there be able to cheer with Brian Pattie and the team and see Clint take the checkered flag after all we have been through, it's just really special. Clint told me when he joined our team, he signed his contract on a Tuesday and on Wednesday, he said, "Y'all do a good job off the track, but could you give me some cars I could win with?"
I said, "Yeah, we'll do just that." I'm really proud to sit here and say that Clint drove one of our cars to victory lane. Big deal for our team.
THE MODERATOR: We are now welcomed by race winner Clint Bowyer, driver of the number 15 5‑hour ENERGY Toyota. Talk about how far Michael Waltrip Racing has come in five years and this is your first win at Sonoma. Talk about what it feels like to be part of this win today.
CLINT BOWYER: Let me tell you, I just looked up and Jeff Gordon is sitting there on the wall, won this race many times, he's a champion of this sport and I just beat him. I'm telling ya, I passed him. I beat him. You have no idea, a young racer from Kansas, you don't forget stuff like that. Just unbelievable to be able to at this point in my career to get with a new bunch of people.
Very nerve racking times in the wintertime. Basically kind of lost my ride at RCR, walked into a new program with a lot of unknowns, and I had a lot of confidence in what was going on. I still had confidence in myself. Michael, Rob Kaufmann, everybody involved with MWR, paired me with Brian Pattie and paired me with a lot of good people and that's what it takes to be successful in any good business and NASCAR racing is no exception.
It's all about surrounding yourself with good people and we certainly have that. We have great partners, 5‑hour ENERGY, Napa and Aaron's, my teammates, Martin Truex and Mark Martin, I'm telling you, everybody is working very, very good together with this group.
That's something I've never been able to do before. I've had good teammates and I've had good stuff, but never like this at this magnitude. This is a young group. Michael stuck it out and I'm telling you, he's fixing to reap the benefits. He's worked hard. Our marketing department does a great job and this is I think the first of many to come. To have this dirt boy from Kansas in victory lane at this road course is big, trust me.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: We are just really thankful for Toyota. They are the reason why I had a chance to have team. We got out of the gates like I said in a shaky fashion at best and they hung with us and we have pushed together as close as we can with Toyota; and also working close with Joe Gibbs Racing.
And so we have a very, very positive atmosphere, a good working relationship with all of our partners so thanks to those guys for that. Thanks to Clint for the risk, taking the leap of faith and glad he's able to be here today.
THE MODERATOR: Brian, I know you're probably used to this; I don't know how you follow those two.
CLINT BOWYER: Trust me, he did that on the radio today.
THE MODERATOR: A couple of interesting stats. Clint becomes the sixth consecutive first‑time Sprint Cup road race winner in Sonoma and eighth consecutive different winner of the Toyota Save Mart 350. So some neat stats here, obviously the first win for him at Sonoma. Talk about being part of this team as the struggles that they have both talked about, what does this win mean for you today?
BRIAN PATTIE: It means a lot; it means a lot to me. I was in the same boat he was, he lost his ride and I lost my job.
CLINT BOWYER: We are a place for refugees.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: These two didn't have anywhere to go. (Laughter).
BRIAN PATTIE: Last summer was eye‑opening for me personally and career‑wise. Had a lot of supporters called whenever times changed at my previous employer, and I'm just blessed to be here.
Q. You guys got this thing won, and then a yellow comes out at the end. Your thoughts on what was going on then and what you had been doing to sort of plan ahead here throughout the race?
CLINT BOWYER: I sucked so much air in, my car stalled. (Laughter) I was like, "Oh, no!"
Because I knew Kurt really had a good car early and I started to get away from him but I knew there was some guys out there that took tires and I looked in the mirror and the old grizzly himself, Tony, was one of them, and he was in third place. I knew it was going to be a tall order.
But there were some things I learned on the last restart. The track is a lot slicker. After that first lap you get going, I drove off into 10 and I about drove off the racetrack, very, very slick off of 10, and it set me up into 11 and I about spun out.
So I backed off a little bit and got me a little bit of lead away. And then we got back out there to turn four and the 78 was all over the track, parts everywhere, all over the racetrack getting into 7, and I about spun out again and that green‑and‑white checkered, everything that's going through your mind. You know you're close on fuel you and know you have to keep the two champions of this sport behind you and you know you have no business leading this damn thing. And, man, I'll tell you, there's a lot of unknowns about the rest of it.
But just unbelievable, to have a great car, I knew when we went to VIR and tested, this thing was pretty fast. Never did I think it would put me in victory lane out here but I knew it was going to be a good car for us. I think we'll take this thing to rockets.
BRIAN PATTIE: Obviously we had the results monitors, and our pace was really good, had good forward drive off of 11 all day. We weren't going to give this one away; make him take it from us. They didn't, so it's good.
Q. You expressed some surprise about seeing Jeff Gordon and saying, hey, I won a place where he's won five times. Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch were also surprised did you so well, yet you finished fourth here three times. Was it that much of a surprise you broke through here today?
CLINT BOWYER: Quietly, we've had good runs here. This is probably quietly been one of my favorite racetracks.
And you know, I've always been comfortable here. I've always enjoyed it and that's what you have to be at any racetrack. You know, any given weekend, to be able to compete for a win. But man, never have I had a car like this. I knew in practice, we all watch the monitors, and we all watch the graphs‑‑
BRIAN PATTIE: Some more than others.
CLINT BOWYER: Me, especially, I watch the fall‑offs. That's what I focus on in practice sessions.
I knew Jeff Gordon had a lot of speed in his race car and I knew the last practice that I didn't show that big lap but my graph was really good. It was a lot straighter than most, so the hang on of my car really held on through the course of a run.
So I knew that was going to be my strong point but you don't know what's going to happen when the cautions are going to come out everything and else. That being said, cautions did come out, so everything that you knew going in, all of the strong points that you had confidence in, you no longer had that advantage anymore.
So it was definitely nerve‑wracking, but, man, you know, Kurt raced me clean. He felt me and roughed me up and let me know he was there. But never did anything to jeopardize either one of us, because that's what happens. You get to driving over your head and you dive bomb somebody, a lot of times you wheel hot and you and end up wiping yourself out, too.
He raced a very smart race, and it was a good weekend. Just from Bo Jackson raising money for the charity for an 11‑year‑old on the back end of our car; it was an unbelievable weekend, from running, literally running in traffic, trying to make driver's meeting. It was literally a crazy weekend.
Q. I overheard Tony saying he only needed one more lap to catch you.
CLINT BOWYER: Damn glad he didn't have it. (Laughter).
Q. Could you hold him off for another lap?
CLINT BOWYER: Do you know how many races I would have had if it wasn't for that guy in front of me, I would have won that damn thing? (Laughter).
He was going to beat me. (Laughing).
Q. I heard you mention about having to race to a meeting, getting caught in traffic. Can you elaborate on that?
CLINT BOWYER: Yes, that speaks volumes about the people that turn out for these races. There's a good problem to have, when you can't get them in there, that's what this sports is all about. I think it speaks volumes about getting things turned around in this sport. This has become one of the most exciting racetracks we go to. This road racing really shakes things up in this sport. It's a wild‑card race. We all know it going in.
You hear us talk about the Chase, points are so valuable, and a track like this can really shake things up. We have two of those wild‑card races here almost within three weeks. Daytona coming up on the 4th, we all have our eyes on that, too, because we all know the consequences between a good run and a bad run there.
Q. You talked about signing Clint earlier. When you signed him, where did you think Sonoma‑‑ how much of a win at Sonoma was a possibility?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: I knew he had some solid runs here. Clint is one of those guys that showed up and knew how to race and that doesn't happen very often. When you have that feel for a car, one of these cars especially, doesn't matter where you go, you're going to be good. Talked to Brian about the test they had had at VIR and looked at Clint's history and knew that they would be a player.
It was great watching them when they threw the green, watching them march up there and grab the lead. That told us all that if everything went well, we would be around at the end.
It's cool, I got a text from Bobby Kennedy during the race and he was like, "Man, this is hard."
I said: Just wait, it will get harder because I knew the cautions would come and the game would be changed. I was confident in Clint's ability.
CLINT BOWYER: There's a guy right there, you hear‑‑ you don't hear enough of. Bobby Kennedy, there's a lot of guys at MWR that have been around for a long time that have kind of set the standards, for us, myself, Brian, Mark Martin. Martin Truex, he put in his time and saw this thing through and we owe a lot of thanks to him.
You know, these cars have not always handled like this. It's been a lot of hard work on a lot of people's part. Rob Kaufmann, my other boss I guess, and you don't hear a lot about him. I just want to thank him. He called me in victory lane, him and Michael.
Michael, what he does on TV, what he does for our sponsors is the reason that we are still in business in this organization. And you know, our marketing department takes care of our sponsors and I think if we can keep him in victory lane, it's going to set the standard for many years to come.
Q. There are very few cautions in this race, and earlier, Kurt said that he thought it looked like a real gentleman's road race today. How do you account for so few cautions here?
CLINT BOWYER: I thought it was the best race that I've literally ever seen. (Laughter) Best race in NASCAR history. I promise. That's exactly how I feel. That's my answer. (Big smile).
Q. This year, the team seems to be ready, almost every weekend. When did you feel that happen, and I know you've spoken about Scott Miller before, but can you tell us at what point this year you felt like it's working?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Well, I give Andy Graves a lot of credit any time I'm asked about where we are today. The reason for that is simple. I went to him in January of 2011 and I said, "Are our cars as good as Job Gibbs' cars?"
And he said, "No, they are not, because you don't trust our process. Your people don't believe in‑‑ your direction is not to follow us."
I said, "Well, we are changing directions, Buddy, and we are going to start following you."
They have just helped us. We have got a lot of smart people at MWR and you give them a task and you say, these are the numbers we are going to Chase; Bobby Kennedy he mentioned; the guys in the fab shop, engineering, they are all just smart and they are going to get on it.
We were well down that road and talked to Scott Miller and explained to him where we were and where we were heading and he believed in our process and he believed in who we are and who we were.
It didn't happen overnight. It took from early 2011 all the way until November of 2011 to get those cars on the road and Truex drove in Miami and qualified second and finished third, and Clint has driven them all year long. We have a great partner in Toyota Racing Development and we didn't exploit them as much as we should have up until the 2011 season, late in 2011. I'm just thankful for Andy. I'm thankful for Dave Wilson, Pete Spence, all of the folks at TRD. They are the only reason why we have a team. I said, well, if we are the reason why we have a team, we need to use them more, and that's what we did. Fortunately that gave Brian and Clint tools to put their hands on and go make a difference, and that's what they have done.
CLINT BOWYER: Why are we out here in wine country drinking water? (Laughter).
I'm ready to celebrate.
THE MODERATOR: That's what you'll do when you get through with your post‑race availability.
CLINT BOWYER: You can't show up late and raise your hands for one more question.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: There was this one time when they didn't have any wine, they had water, and Jesus turned it into wine. (Laughter).
Q. I would like you to consider this as seriously as possible.
CLINT BOWYER: It's hard for me to be, sir.
Q. Even in Virginia a couple of weeks ago or today or over the weekend, could you hear by the sound of the engine, the sound of the car on the track that you had a winning car, a possible winning car?
CLINT BOWYER: You know, you don't hear it. You feel it. The seat of your pants, you always talk about that. That's the talent we have is the feel in the seat of our pants.
But you know, through simulation, through TRD, we really worked on our fuel maps. We did this on two stops. A lot of teams did it on three stops. We were able to work on our fuel strategy, get our mapping that you always talk about correct, and make good fuel mileage all weekend long. There was strategy behind that, so it worked.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: I want to just tell you, if you listen to the radio like I did, Brian Pattie did an amazing job. Race car drivers, I'm one of them, I know how frustrating and crazy it is. He kept Clint so focused on keeping the tires on and keeping them‑‑
CLINT BOWYER: He yelled at me.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: He did. He yelled back and said, "I'm trying hard, friend." You know, saved gas. It was a great team effort. I'm proud of Brian and thankful he showed up for our team.
What great camaraderie we have at MWR, not only between Brian and Clint but also between Clint and Vickers and Truex and all of our drivers and Mark Martin. That's what a team is all about, having guys that believe in each other and work with each other.
There's your goblet, Clint.
CLINT BOWYER: Did you fix my trophy? Broke one. (Laughter).
Q. Being as this was the best race in NASCAR history, I was wondering if you could elaborate a little. It sounds like the fact that there were so few yellows did help you today, or did you just have a good enough car that you were going to be able to overcome no matter what?
CLINT BOWYER: Like I said, I knew what our strong points are, and it was a long run. Obviously not having cautions helped that and helped me stay up front.
My teammate he led laps. They had a different strategy, he pitted three times and we pitted twice. But he had his time in the sun, too. That speaks volumes. Where did Brian finish?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Brian was fourth and Truex was Top‑5 and got spun out late but he had a car that could have contended. If it stayed green, it was like Tony‑‑
CLINT BOWYER: They had good cars. So it goes back to all of the hard work in the shops and all of the boys back home.
Q. How are you going to celebrate tonight?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, I'm fixing to drink some wine. Did you glue the bottom back on?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: (Passing goblet with wine to Clint).
CLINT BOWYER: I'm fixing to drink wine, ma'am. Come down here and join me (Laughter).
You know, you're always in a rush to get out of here, and I don't care if I leave tonight or‑‑
MICHAEL WALTRIP: He was in a rush to get in here so why don't you just relax.
CLINT BOWYER: Might give ride‑alongs afterwards.
Q. Wondering, you're working so hard to hold Kurt off, and then you get the caution. What is it that you're thinking then, and what are you thinking about under those caution laps? How stressed out are you and what's Brian saying to keep you calm?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, I'm thinking, I barely held him off the last three or four laps; how the hell am I going to do it the next two or three laps. That's exactly what I was thinking and that's probably exactly what you were thinking. There's no way you could hold him off again, but somehow, some way we did.
We had a really good race car. There was a point there where I didn't think that I was going to be able to hold him off. He was strong in a couple areas off of 10 where I knew that sets you up for a good passing zone, and I was trying to get better in there. But every time I tried to push a hard lap, I would slip up and actually lose time.
I started to back off there, and finally started to get some daylight between us and that was a good feeling. Then a caution came out. I don't know who‑‑ oh, the 27. He was on my‑‑ I have a list that starts with a four‑letter word and he was on it.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: One of the guys on the team said that if this doesn't work out, I'm going to Menards and shoplifting. They were mad. (Laughter).
Q. At what point or did you realize that Kurt Busch had gone into the tire wall in turn 11?
BRIAN PATTIE: I never did.
CLINT BOWYER: I didn't know that either.
BRIAN PATTIE: I just look at the gaps and I look at what lead you have and that's all I look at.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: He said he bounced from the inside and they used to move and evidently they bolted them down because when they bounced off‑‑
CLINT BOWYER: Really? I'm glad they screwed them down.
We did used to move those things in a little bit. That was kind of a strategy by all of us nifty race car drivers. I didn't know they were bolted down, either.
Can we go now? (Laughter) Don't all of you guys know I have ADD (laughing).
Q. Given your relationship, what does it mean to have a championship trophy with the Toyota name on it?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Yeah, the Toyota Save Mart 350. That's amazing. I will never forget back in 2005 I was driving for Dale Earnhardt, Incorporated and I thought life was great and they came to me and said why don't you be a team owner. Like him, I have add, too, and I thought, well, that would be fun. That would give me something else to do.
And we started, and golly, it's been so fun to have that relationship. Think about Napa, they have been around since 2001, Aaron's since 2000, and it's because we are friends, we are buddies, we do this together and now since basically 2005 with Toyota, those type of partnerships and relationships are the only reason why I'm still in business today. Took us a while to get cars like we have now and the strategy and the philosophy to race the way we are now, and I'm just eternally grateful.
You are looking at three really thankful people. Brian didn't have a job. Clint doesn't know what was next and I've been fighting to survive.
To sit here today as winners of this event, and more than that just contenders week‑in and week‑out, we are very grateful and very thankful people.
Q. Brian Vickers has done really well for you guys in the races you've had him. Could there be a future for him in your organization?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Certainly. We structured MWR and built our building and Toyota believes in the fact that we could have four teams one day. Certainly is a possibility to add Brian to our driver lineup with a fourth team or even have him hang around another year, and if Mark ever gets done driving‑‑ which I wouldn't wait around for Mark to quit if I was him. I would put something else in my contract if I was him, because Mark is probably going to do it a while.
CLINT BOWYER: He might live forever. He might be doing this at 110.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: If you think of somebody's attitude that is 180 degrees different, he struggled years ago getting tangled up with folks, and he started the season saying I'm not that guy, I know how to race these cars and I'm going to prove it. He's been amazing for our organization.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions?
CLINT BOWYER: (Hanging head).
MICHAEL WALTRIP: I was going to cry. It really meant the world to me because of what the No. 15 means to me personally, and to be able to put it back in victory lane and still be connected to it.
My life will never be the same because of that number, and it was emotional for me. I tried to hide all that crap so you all think I'm dumb, but it's pretty tough to live through all of those emotions but it's cool to smile when it's all said and done.
Q. Three hours or four hours ago you were ninth in points without a win and now you're seventh in points with a win. What kind of difference is that when you look at your Chase chances?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, just keep doing it. Keep doing what we are doing. You know, Brian Pattie and company, everybody on the 5‑hour ENERGY Toyota keeps bringing good race cars and we just have to keep digging. Already looking to next week to be honest with you. As soon as you asked that question, I was like, where are we next week? Kentucky. I didn't run good there last year and have to turn it around and run good there. And then have a good run at Daytona; I do love that race. It's a long road to hoe before the Chase. Everybody is in this sport because of the Chase you, and can't win a championship without being a part of that elite group.
I missed it last year and it sucked to sit at home and watch. I did get to deer hunt a little bit but I would much rather be partying. Vegas is pretty fun. That's a pretty good week that you miss when you don't make the Chase.
Q. After a battle like that with someone that transpires over so many laps, and you have to focus so much, what's that exchange like in victory lane? What did you and Kurt talk about?
CLINT BOWYER: Just to have him come to victory lane spoke volumes about his character. He's a champion of the sport. You can't lose sight of that. I know there's been a lot of negative around him but he had a lot of positives today for Kurt Busch. He had an extremely good run. I don't know how you can say James Finch is an underfunded team but I don't know what they did. They didn't have a sponsor on the car but for him to be competing for a win in that equipment that has never done that; that boy can drive.
And when you give him the confidence and the direction and sometimes I guess the discipline to get the job done, he's certainly capable of it, and he had me on my toes and he had me scared to death today, and just things worked out. So when you can beat that guy‑‑ you know, the two guys behind me were champions of this sport and that's big, to be able to hold them guys off.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on your win today.
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