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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 8, 2008
DENISE MALOOF: Welcome everyone to today's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teleconference in advance of Saturday night's race at the Phoenix International Raceway, and that is the Subway Fresh Fit 500.
We're joined today by Clint Bowyer, the driver of the No. 07, Jack Daniel's Chevrolet. Clint is currently 11th in the Series standings, and he also leads the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings heading into this weekend's event. Clint, what is your outlook this weekend?
CLINT BOWYER: I'm excited. Phoenix has always been a good track for me. I won what was the Busch race last year. And I'm really looking forward to getting back there. Mile and a half have been okay for us, but, you know, I really feel like we had a good test there earlier, and looking, like I say, really looking forward to going to Phoenix.
I love the racetrack. It's racy, and you can get up on the wheel and make things happen there.
Q. Did you watch the game last night, what did you think
CLINT BOWYER: Man, how awesome was that. It was unbelievable. I thought my boys had lost, and then out of nowhere, Chalmers made that shot. You know, it was just meant to be. That's all you can say. It was meant to be. They worked so hard all season long, and they deserved it.
Q. Where did you watch from?
CLINT BOWYER: I was at the bar, Wild Wings Cafe. It's kind of a wings and bar thing here in Winston-Salem. Just me and a couple of the dirt guys.
You know, Northâ€ Carolina is so funny. Wasn't too many people out watching the game in Northâ€ Carolina (laughing).
Q. I realize we're still pretty early in the season here, but how much change do you think we'll see in the top 12 between now and Richmond?
CLINT BOWYER: You know, I think there possibly could be a couple. I think there are still one or two that are outside the Chase. But, you know, if you really think about it, it's basically the same group of teams that ran strong over the last couple of years.
But hopefully there's not too many changes. I kind of like the way it is. But that's a good question. I really feel like there are some teams outside knocking on the door that could possibly be a threat. You know, who knows. Anybody could have bad luck.
But I think, you know, the best teams are in it for a reason, and they deserve to be in it right now.
Q. There's been a lot of talk the last couple weeks about how hard the new car is to drive. Was it too easy to drive last year, the other cars?
CLINT BOWYER: I don't think at all. I think it was racy. You could get up on it, and get on the outside and make things happen. It's just made it really hard to, you know, on the bigger tracks. On the shorter tracks, it doesn't seem to be a big deal at all. But on the bigger racetracks, it seems to make a pretty good difference.
You know, you'd really get aero tight behind people at Texas. We really haven't seen that or experienced that to the extreme that Texas was by many any means.
You know, it's the same for everybody. You've got to work, you've got to have a good handling race car. In Vegas, I had a loose race car there, and it was too seconds off the pace with Texas. I was loose, and we ran inside the Top 10 all day long. There's a fine line between loose in handling, and loose and out of control.
You didn't see a four-time champion Jeff Gordon struggling out there because he doesn't know how to drive, because he's not a good driver because of his car. That proves to you right there, Jimmie Johnson, two-time champion, he struggled. California and Vegas, they were terrible. They've figured out the problem and made their cars handle better and he finished second.
By any means, the 99, the Roush cars, the 99 is better than all the Roush cars. They've just got something figured out a little bit better than everybody else, and it's up to everybody to get it picked up. Because these mile and a halves, let's face it, those are the ones that are going to win the championship. There's not enough short tracks to overcome the big tracks. So you've got to be good everywhere. But these big tracks are what wins the championship.
Q. You had a rough start, but the last four races you've had it dialed in. What's been the difference between those first few races and the last four?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, Daytona, start off there. They were leading the Daytona 500 inside 18 to go and got wrecked. Just bad luck. That's all there is to it. We were -- something, we just got run over.
California and Vegas, that was our fault. We were way off. That's why I was saying, you know, in that last statement, I mean, we were way off, way, way, way loose with no grip at all.
Gill made some aero changes and worked hard, getting the car to handle, got to Atlanta and took off. That's everybody's hard work and dedication. We just didn't sit on the couch and get better. We tested, we worked hard. We were on the seven-post rig a lot. We were in the aero, you know, wind tunnel.
Gill has really buckled down hard and figured it out for me, and we were able to get back up where we belong, I believe.
Q. You've had some good success at PIR in the Nationwide, and in the Busch series, not so much in the Cup. Is there a difference why?
CLINT BOWYER: I'm sorry. Can you ask me that again?
Q. You've had good success at PIR, Nationwide Series. But in the Cup?
CLINT BOWYER: Absolutely. Well, you know, I mean, I'm a firm believer in making your own luck. Putting yourself in the right situations to where you don't have to have bad luck. But we've had bad luck there.
I mean, we've got aâ€ -- got turned around there once running good. Just had some things go wrong. We've run well. The last race there our brakes went out, so we've done a lot of things to try to learn from our mistakes and better ourselves for tracks like Phoenix.
I really feel like over the off-season, we've probably put two or three tests forward to just brakes and things like that for our short track program to try to pick it up. From the tests I've seen so far, I think we'll be just fine.
Q. I'm working on a story about the drivers and their hot rods and their toys. Tell me a little bit about that old Mercury you've got?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, that's my baby. Actually, she's coming back home this Friday. They're delivering it back. My good friend I used to race with, Brook Phillips, he's the guy that built the Camero that Richard sold, and I don't know if you're familiar with that car.
But they've had my car for about a year, and did a few different things. You know, the old girl was a driver before. I had a lot of fun with it. I'd take it out, and we'd blow flames out the tail pipes. Kind of hard on the old girl. A lot of people have asked me all the time about car shows and doing that.
You know, it was a driver. It was show quality, but it wasn't a show winner. So we decided to redo it last year, Brook and I, and put our heads together.
I've changed my mind. I go to a car show, and call him and change something, and I fly to Wichita and check it out. You know, we've definitely come a long ways with it. They're delivering it this weekend. So I'm excited to see it.
I went and saw it before Texas, and just approved everything, and made sure to check everything out. Man, it's awesome. So I can't wait to get it back and take her cruising.
Q. Have you checked out some of the other hot rods that some of the other drivers have got?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, you know. That's the neat thing about hot rods and, you know, cars, old cars. Everybody's kind of got their little bit different taste. So that's what's neat about it. Drivers are no different. Ryan Newman, he's got a lot of older, neat, just classic cars that are rare. You know, he always seems like he's got a really rare car.
Q. Is that the car that was actually on "Rain Man" that he's got?
CLINT BOWYER: I don't know for sure about that car. I know he's got a bunch of Plymouths and Dodges and stuff like that, which are neat old cars. You know, Stewart always seems to buy a sweet car or two or 12. So a lot of guys have cars. Let's face it. We're race car drivers. I've been around hot rods my whole life. So there's nothing better than a good looking hot rod going on down the road.
Q. Do you have any idea in your mind just analysis, what you think that Roush has figured out on these cars in general?
CLINT BOWYER: No, I wish I did. If I did, I'd put it to good use. You know, they've just got it figured out. They've figured out what car they'll need to get comfortable and be fast. You know, there's a few things.
Just from what I can see, they're able to arc the corner, getting into the corner, a lot bigger than most people. Seems like you're loose in the corner a lot with these cars , and they're able to do that and keep momentum through the corners.
You can't just pinpoint it. Can't say they've got 50 more horsepower than everybody, because that's not likely, and they go through the corners just as good. So it's up to everybody to work harder on the aero program, shocks and springs, chassis. Figure out what they've got figured out. Because they've just done their homework better and come across something before everybody else.
Q. I had a crew chief tell me it was almost inspirational that the 24 team struggled so bad that it made him and his team feel like even if the iconic teams can struggle, there's hope for them. What did you think at seeing Gordon struggle so badly on the track, and everybody's emailing about it this week?
CLINT BOWYER: I think it just proves the point, it's beâ€ -- you hear the commentators and all these guys saying it's not like they used to it just brings the driver out of them. I don't think anybody questions Jeff Gordon's talent. When you see that happen to him, you realize and everybody realizes that, hey, there is a big part of the way these cars handle to why they're fast.
Q. Does it shake you at all when you see a bad wreck like the one Michael McDowell had last weekend?
CLINT BOWYER: You know, I think, yeah, you'd be brain dead if it didn't. It's unbelievable. It was scary for everybody. You know, just thank God that he got out of there unscathed. I think it says a lot about how far our sport has come from the safety aspect side of it.
Let's face it, before Dale Earnhardt's death, that one right there may have killed him. You know, and the safety feature of the HANS, and the safer barriers, the seats the way the car is constructed. There are a lot of things that play a huge role in keeping him safe, and having him have the ability to get out of that car and walk away.
Q. Does any of that carry over to when you're in the race and in the moment? Does any of that kind of, you know, reaction carry over?
CLINT BOWYER: No, not really. Everybody's got a job to do. You're so focused on hitting your marks and trying to be fast. You're too busy to think about that.
Q. What do you drive day-to-day away from the track?
CLINT BOWYER: Chevy Tahoe.
Q. Sorry to take the focus away from you, but I was wondering if you could tell us what makes Jeff Burton so good? And if you think he's a serious threat for the title this year?
CLINT BOWYER: I sure hope so. I think it's his determination. I mean, he is determined beyond belief. He's very focused. A younger driver like myself can learn a lot from somebody like Jeff Burton.
It's amazing to watch him how focused he is. And week in and week out how in tune he is to everything. That man, seriously wants it. And you have to have that in anything you do. You know to be successful, successful people are that way. And he's had a lot of success. There's a lot to be learned from Jeff Burton.
Q. Has he been pretty consistent in terms of his focus and how desired he is of his title this year?
CLINT BOWYER: I think he's been that way ever since I met him, I can put it that way. I didn't know him before RCR, bu he's been every bit that much or if not more ever since I met him, and him coming over to RCR. He's dedicated to his job. And, you know, his passion for racing, and nothing gets in the way of that.
Q. Some have been surprised that you and your team's performance over the past two years. Do you sense good results coming? And was any of that ever a surprise to you?
CLINT BOWYER: You know, obviously some of the progression how fast it was may have been a surprise. But, you know, I've always believed you're only as good as the people around you, and I'm surrounded with great people.
Gill, and everybody on the Jack Daniel's Chevrolet team, Richard, he has put everybody in place for me to go out and be successful. I owe a lot to him for that. If it wasn't for those people around me, I wouldn't be talking to you, because I'd be a back burner and I might not even be around.
I think a driver is only as good as his race team. I like to say I'm fortunate to have good people. So it may be that somehow how fast it all happened, maybe. But the potential of this team, no, I never doubted it a bit.
Q. All teams seem to work extremely hard. But then just something all of a sudden starts to click for some teams. Did you think that was the case with your team?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, you know, I think it just takes time to gel. To work together. To learn eave each other. I think that is the biggest thing. It's not always what you're saying, it's how you're saying it. It takes time, you know.
It's no different than, you know, you talking to me. I mean, your first interview, you're going to think of me as one way. If I did 50 of them, you know, in a row, by the time we were done, you'd have me figured out and know exactly how I was saying it, and what I was saying and what I meant by it. So I think it just takes time.
Q. Richard Childress Racing is a top tier team, you're all in the top 12 in points right now. What is bringing on that fourth car for 2009 going to bring to the table for you guys in terms of being even more competitive, maybe?
CLINT BOWYER: Absolutely. It brings a lot to the table. It brings everything from more resources, more testing, more everything that we bring to the track with three teams, you've got four of them to pull off of. You've got all that much more resources. More funding, you know, more income to be able to put forth through the whole organization, to motors and to R & D and stuff like that.
So it's definitely a huge advantage, huge feather in our hat to have that fourth team. You know, it's important. We've already got a wonderful sponsor with General Mills. Richard's going to get the right driver and right crew chief put in place. It works well with our program we've got now. You know, I'm excited about it. I think it can only mean good things for us.
Q. With this new car, we've heard a lot of different things that drivers consider a problem. Now once you figure out a certain problem with your car, and say you race at a different, maybe a short track. Does that problem come back because it's a different short track? In other words, do you figure out the problem or is it going to take the entire season and all these different tracks to figure it out?
Q. You know, with testing, you are limited to what, you know, you can learn and pick up because basically you can't go to that particular track and test. You have to do the next best thing, and it's not always right.
But, no. I think you learn as you go. You learn off your teammates. That is the thing about a multi-car team - it's not just you. Here at RCR, we can all work together on that and work in different ways to come together.
You know, we can send the 31, say he's going to work on shocks, we're going to work on springs and Kevin's going to work on aero stuff. We can combine those efforts and put it to a good program.
Q. You were saying you really like PIR what is it you like about it? Is it the odd shape, the corners, the flatness, or what?
CLINT BOWYER: Everything you just said. Absolutely everything you just said. Of it's a race erase track, it's a short track. You can get in and route and gouge, it's fast to where you have to keep the fenders on it. You have to keep the car freed up. But you can get in and route and gouge a little bit and get up on the wheel and make it happen.
I just think it's just one of those tracks where you can control your destiny a little bit more inside the race car than maybe on a mile and a half or something like that.
Q. And I think you were saying earlier also that you're probably hear less griping from drivers about the track, because the things that happened at Texas won't likely happen at a short track like Phoenix?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, you just don't have that huge aero advantage or disadvantage. It's not out the window you've got to have it. But it's a lot less, a lot more tame down. So I think, yeah, absolutely, I think the field will be good.
The only thing that's concerning me about these races is how many cars we have a lap down. At the end of the races, we were able to put two tires on, because, let's face it, we only had two cars behind us. That wasn't much of a gamble at all. We came in and put tires on, and was able to pass cars on the restart because of tires on and nothing else. That's got a little bit of concern for me.
But it's the same for everybody. You've got to work around it. It will get better. As everybody learns more and more about this car, it will keep getting better and better. It already has.
Q. What was your take on that last lap skirmish with Denny in Texas?
CLINT BOWYER: Man, it was just a racing thing. It was my fault. I came up on him, absolutely. I was tight, and, you know, spotter he told me he was looking, he was looking. I was already there. You know, it was nothing. I was trying to look and get on the gas and make the car rotate and got into him, and he turned me in the fins.
It was by no means his fault. If I had lifted, who knows what would have happened. I would have probably still slid into him and happened anyways. The lap coming off of 4 with 500 yards to go, it's just, you know, that's racing. That's part of it. I'd do the same thing again, and probably crash all over again.
DENISE MALOOF: Clint, thank you very much for spending time with us. And good luck on a very busy weekend this week in Phoenix.
CLINT BOWYER: Thank you.
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