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March 26, 2018
THE MODERATOR: We're going to continue here in our post‑race celebrations with the winners of the STP 500, and we've been joined by our winning crew chief, Bugarewicz, and also the vice president of competition for Stewart‑Haas Racing with Greg Zipadelli. Buga, I'll start with you first. Talk a little bit about those final laps. Obviously it's been a long winless streak for Clint. I know how hard you guys have wanted to win, but talk about those final few laps and really what it meant to end up in Victory Lane here at Martinsville.
MIKE BUGAREWICZ: Yeah, in my 10 years so far in this sport, I've learned that you don't expect anything in the last few laps; it could come down to the last one. You could have led all the laps all day long, and it may not work out for you in the end.
We just stayed focused, kept digging until the end of the race, and for him to have that winless streak of 190 races, I'm so happy for him to finally get another one, get a picture with his son. I know he's been wanting that for a long, long time, and I really liked it for this team. It's not always seen because we're not always up there leading all the laps in every race, but these guys work just as hard as any team out there. We're a really tight‑knit group, and well deserving for this whole team and whole company who's really dug hard all winter long.
THE MODERATOR: Greg, obviously Clint stepped into the 14 after Tony retired; talk a little bit about just that transition, but obviously the importance of getting that car back to Victory Lane, and as Buga said, you guys have had a strong start to the season and really what it means today to know that the 14 has returned to Victory Lane.
GREG ZIPADELLI: Yeah, it's pretty awesome. Who doesn't love Clint, know what I mean, he's a great guy who's a great addition to Stewart‑Haas. But like Buga said, for these guys, they've been through a lot of ups and downs in the past few years, so first and foremost, congratulations. That's really cool to see the 14 car back in Victory Lane, especially at a place like this. If you're a racer, it doesn't get much better that this place. Just a really cool racetrack, a lot of history, a lot of fun racing here. I was fortunate enough to race modifieds and Busch Cars here back in those days. Been a really cool place. Love coming here.
But for our organization it's been a solid year. Everybody has worked really hard in the off‑season, like every other team, but last year we were trying to figure out how to put motors in cars to make it to the racetrack, and that's not a lie. I mean, it was that bad when we switched over to Ford. It was a lot of things that were a lot harder than we thought they were.
This year as a group they've been able to work together, and they've been able to work on a lot of little details, and I think it's shown in the performance to start the year.
But we've got a long year, so we've got to continue to work, continue to stay focused. We can't take a deep breath, or you'll get passed in this sport.
Q. Greg, Clint has mentioned it before, but a lot today, of course, after the win about the pressure of wanting to win and perform. I just wondered if you could talk a little bit about what you've noticed. I know it's one thing to be at a top organization and have pressure, but also the particular car that he was in and the driver he was replacing, I just wondered how you viewed that while he's been there.
GREG ZIPADELLI: Yeah, big shoes to fill. We all know that, in many ways.
You know, I see Clint‑‑ I see him a lot more focused, dedicated and harder working this year, honestly. This whole group is, in all honesty. They had a year last year, they had speed at a lot of racetracks and just couldn't close the deal, put it all together. Mike has done a great job of learning and growing as a leader and pulling these guys together, including Clint. You know, you can see it. You can see it in their performance, but you can see it with these guys just every day in the shop, in our meetings and things of that nature.
Proud of them. They've‑‑ sometimes it takes a little bit of time to work together and learn to believe in each other, and I think what you saw today was an example of that.
But if you look at their performance from Daytona to today, it's been significantly better.
Q. Greg, it seems like four wins, constant improvement across the board with all change. With all the changes you've made over the off‑season, what has made this group of guys and this pairing with the crew chiefs click for this organization?
GREG ZIPADELLI: I think just honestly, some time. We had some growing pains last year. And I think maybe not having the success that we expected or wanted or feel that this group of capable of, everybody worked a little harder this year. Everybody dug down. Everybody is working better together as a group. I feel like our whole entire company is doing better.
Like I said, we took a lot on last year from chassis shop to rear‑end housings to all the components, all the things that we didn't do in the past, so there was a lot of moving parts.
I would honestly say that the crew chiefs and our teams might have been handicapped a few times last year because we couldn't get stuff done in the order that we needed to as an organization. They were patient. They worked hard. They kept focused, and they believed in the group and the people behind them.
You know, we're reaping the benefits of that today, but like I said, man, this is a long season.
Q. Greg, I understand what you've talked about and just what you guys had to do the last year. I think if you look back even a little further, a number of years, it was kind of viewed as even you had three or four cars or whatever, it was one car having that success, and that's kind of always the‑‑ even at Hendrick Motorsports they always had trouble with getting the third or fourth car to have that success. You have a second car win today; how is that‑‑ where do you feel like you are in kind of bridging the gap maybe between the 4 and the other three cars, and how significant has that been that there's been one of the dominant cars and the other three haven't been as consistent?
GREG ZIPADELLI: I mean, it's huge for an organization. You know, I've been proud of the wins and the success we've had, but I've been more proud of the performance of all four cars so far this year. When you look at them from a qualifying perspective, when you look at it a finishing perspective, when you look at where they are as a group in points, you know, that's how‑‑ I'll say I judge myself and the rest of us, the people at Stewart‑Haas, is we've got to figure out a way to give all four of our teams the best stuff we can. We've got to figure out how to continue to get our guys to work together and continue to make our stuff better to where Mike shows up at the racetrack and he has speed, and he can do his job. There's been weekends where they've shown up, and we just simply‑‑ our cars didn't have the speed that they needed to, and it doesn't matter, he can't make it better at that point.
You know, we have to do our work back at the shop in order for these guys to come here and perform like they do.
Q. Last year you talked about (indiscernible) what are things you can do more of to have speed at the shop?
GREG ZIPADELLI: Well, I mean, obviously from an aero perspective, we've got a very strong group. They work hard. They're very dedicated to building great race cars. It's the same thing everybody works on, you work on aero, you work on horsepower, and you work on pit crews. That's something that Mike has been plagued with a little bit this year in all honesty. Let's be honest, they haven't done a great job with the switch‑over. Some of our guys have. Mike's guys have struggled, but they stepped up today.
I'm really, really proud of them after meeting with them and talking to them last week and the frustrations flying home from California when they had honestly a top‑5 car and maybe better than that if we could have gotten him out of the pits and raced them head‑to‑head.
But when it counted, they did an awesome job today, and I mean, those are the things that give me goosebumps is when people have the opportunity and they step up and they grab it, that's pretty cool.
Q. Mike, what's it feel like to‑‑ you know what it means to Clint to get the win. It also means a lot to you; it means a lot to the teams. How do you balance your emotions about who you're the happiest for after a win like this, and as a follow‑up, do you think this kind of opens up the floodgates for you guys? Is this going to lead to some pretty big things for you this season?
MIKE BUGAREWICZ: Yeah, that's a pretty easy one for me to answer. You know, I'm always most happy for all the guys and Clint driving our car and all the people back at SHR. In all honesty, I don't really even think about myself in the equation. I know it takes a lot more than one or two people to make this happen. It takes everybody, every single person that touches the car or a part or anything on this thing.
It's a team win. It's a company win is the best way to describe it in my opinion. Everybody has worked so hard, so I'm most proud for them.
And then what was the second part of your question?
Q. Do you feel like this will open things up?
MIKE BUGAREWICZ: I think so, in the sense of you always get a little bit of like weight off your shoulders because it kind of punches your ticket to the Chase in most cases. It kind of seals that deal for you.
I think, though, the biggest thing that comes from it is confidence. The team gains confidence, the driver gains confidence. I think that's what will excel us the most at this point. It does open maybe some opportunities in the future to races that maybe you wouldn't gamble on a fuel mileage race, now you might to get another win. That's always there. But like Greg said, I mean, you can't sit back on your heels. You can't say, oh, we've got a win, we're good, move on. Uh‑uh, ain't gonna happen. You're going to struggle that first round of the Chase if you sit back on your heels.
But I believe in this company. I love working here, and it's the best place I've ever worked, and these people are going to keep digging hard.
Q. This is kind of a two‑pronged question for both of you. Zippy, you're half a lap away from being 5 for 6, so that's got to feel pretty good. Can you talk about what it meant to put Tony Gibson into that production chief role and kind of get consistency into the cars? And for you, Mike, what does it mean to you to have consistent cars coming to you that you just get to fine tune for Clint?
GREG ZIPADELLI: Yeah, I mean, Tony has got a lot of experience, been in the sport a long time. I mean, we're still doing the same things. We added somebody else in that group, I think, to help the crew chiefs, to help myself in all honesty. It was a big gap. He loves it. He's a racer. He's back there digging, just simply helping. We're focused on the quality of our race cars. Every single one of them needed to be better than what they were last year, and by adding some people, splitting some roles up, it allowed people to pay attention to little details.
You know, he's been a great addition, but what he has done is he's allowed other people to do a better job at what they needed to do because he took a little bit of load off of a lot of people. So you know, I think everybody has really stepped up this year and done a great job.
MIKE BUGAREWICZ: To kind of complement what he said, I think two things that come to mind in general is, one, the load that he's taken off of me. A lot of little things that I had to worry about and spend half my week that I am in the shop, wondering if it's right, if it's the way I want it to be, this and that. It's handled, it's taken care of.
So that lets me focus on other areas to prepare for the race. The other side of it, as Greg touched on earlier, is when you show up to the track and you're closer on speed, you're more in the ballpark, you're already top 5, top 10 speed‑wise, you kind of can relax a little bit in the sense of now, okay, we can just focus on how do we make this comfortable for the driver to race, where at times even last year, I felt like you're trying to fix balance issues, but you're also trying to find speed.
Well, a lot of times they don't go hand‑in‑hand. A lot of times what you're doing to make speed out of the car doesn't necessarily make it drive better. You're trying to find that balance, and you get yourself stuck in the middle, and then when you're trying to race in traffic or all these other things, it just becomes that much more difficult on the driver. So those two big things come to mind.
Q. Mike, was it a big adjustment to start working with Clint? And last year you had three runner‑up finishes. Were you ever thinking, what do you have to do to break through?
MIKE BUGAREWICZ: Well, we all know in this sport, that you've got to cherish every win and every good finish because you never know when the next one is going to be there. It's tight. Every week you look at qualifying and how close it is, and small adjustments have a large impact on the results in the race. It comes down to details.
You know, I can't say I wondered when, but I wanted us to break through. I wanted it for the team, for the company. You know, like Greg said before, this team has been through a lot over three years. Getting Tony his last win was great, was a big step, was great for Tony, was great for the team, but then you always want at least one every year, right, and last year we didn't have one and struggled for a little bit and had moments of greatness and moments of struggles. Like you said, at times it was hard to put a race together.
Already this year out of the box, it was very consistent. The team is gelling well. Me and Clint are gelling well. And we're very fortunate here that already in the sixth race we got a win.
Q. Mike, you can't really talk about Clint not being self‑confident. He's probably the most confident guy in the garage. But during this long winless streak, did he kind of beat himself up some? Did you have to work on that at all, or was that not a factor?
MIKE BUGAREWICZ: Well, I think the biggest thing was just worked on was our relationship together. I think eve myself at times, I would question myself, am I doing the right things, am I doing the right things to help him, am I making the right calls, am I doing the right things to the cars. You're always going to do that until you prove yourself out again and you're always running good and got the chance to compete for wins.
You know, like I said, last year there was some weeks that, man, we really felt that way. We had some really good days going. And other times, you know, not so much. And we're wondering are we doing things wrong or what's going on. But this year, you know, coming out of the box, it's all changed. It's all been fast, it's all been confidence in us working together, and literally just like talking a lot and just really talking about how we're going to be better and what we need to do, being a bigger team.
CLINT BOWYER: How about that? Wooohooooo!
THE MODERATOR: Clint, give us your thoughts on returning to Victory Lane, especially here at Martinsville.
CLINT BOWYER: I mean, damn. Man, I'm telling you, just everything. Thinking back over the years, this is the place‑‑ going back to 2012, like I'd sucked here, and 2012 Brian Pattie came up with a short track car and things started to get better. We got close so many times. I made a mistake and wrecked that Jeff Gordon guy and Jimmie Johnson, whoever the hell that is. And then really, really screwed up and pissed a lot of people off.
To be able to learn from all those mistakes and then get the opportunity to be at Stewart‑Haas Racing, to line up next to my old teammate Kevin Harvick, a champion of the sport, Kurt Busch, a champion of the sport, the welcomed addition of Aric Almirola, to see it all, to learn from our mistakes last year. This was one of our best tracks last year. Mike has had‑‑ Buga‑‑ to have his setup, Tony was always really good here. You know, and he kind of led the charge to the short track program for Martinsville. We had a good test here with the 4 car last year, and Kevin has always been good here.
But ever since I got in this 14 car, this was the one track that I remember last year was like, I think we could be better there, you know, with some adjustments and some good fortune and getting that track position, I think this is a track that we could win at.
Fast forward to this year, you know, everything that we've learned from last year, there's no question. All you guys was hard on us last year. We learned a lot. I learned a lot about myself. You know, and Buga and I, we fought a lot. There's no question. We fought a lot.
But there was no questioning the passion that either one of us had. The desire to get my old ass back in Victory Lane was there, and you know, we had conversations over the off‑season, and then slowly but surely all of a sudden you start getting confidence in one another and you can feel it through Atlanta, a good run there.
But it's hard to watch your teammates, whether it's Kevin as a driver or Rodney as a crew chief on his side, it's hard to see your counterparts have all that success and to be able to say, yeah, we had a good run, but it still fuels that fire, and it can either be a detriment or a positive attraction, and for us, it just made us want to get to Victory Lane.
And then all of a sudden this opportunity comes at Martinsville again, unloaded a good car, unloaded four fast cars. Make no mistake, all four Stewart‑Haas cars have been good all year long. Kevin led that charge with all three races in a row, but we've been Steady Eddie with our 14 car and the things that I've always been accustomed to. Consistency and things like that I'm starting to see, knowing our strengths, knowing our weaknesses from last year, focusing on those weaknesses, and then all of a sudden it starts to click in and putting things together, and you have those conversations; you feel confidence.
When Mike talks, I feel like he has confidence in me, you know, and then when I talk, somehow for some reason I think he's starting to have some confidence in me.
Those are the positive things that start happening, and really truly success and results are the only thing that can fix that.
You know, I told this little turd right here, really it's the one thing that I don't have. I have these pictures, I just‑‑ I don't know why, my best friend was here all week long, and I knew he was coming. I've had all these pictures. I'm just replaying all this that's happened‑‑ in my office, I have all these pictures that I've always just leaned up against the wall that you accumulate over the years, and next thing you know it's been 12, 13 years over time, and I was like, I'm tired of it. I'm going to hang all these up, and it's the one thing that I don't do. You never think about the past, and you never focus on anything, and I didn't want to put a Victory Lane picture up on my wall, but I was like, hell, it's the only one I've got. It's been leaning up against the wall at the bottom of it for, what, six, seven years. Our dirt late model championship, that plaque and those pictures from that deal was leaning up against the wall.
I started to put all these things together, and I was starting to reflect on this, and the one thing that's always missing is a picture with him, you know, and that's where it changes your thought process and actually your reasoning for racing.
A lot of people want to think about these kids as being a distraction to drivers and to athletes‑‑ hell, we ain't athletes, we've got power steering‑‑ but to drivers and things like that. You start to think about what really matters in life, and the one thing that I didn't want him to go through life as is not to know what this was all about.
So to be able to have him in Victory Lane and have his No.1 in Victory Lane, that was pretty cool, wasn't it.
But I mean, it was just something just felt right about today. Our weekend, all four cars were fast. I followed Aric in practice, and I told Mike, that 10 car is as good as we are, no questions asked. He was really strong, I wasn't catching him in any way, shape or form, and I knew that he was going to have a good race. The 4 car was fast. Kurt is always fast here.
And then driving up here this morning, my wife and I were listening to '90s country and jamming out on that, and I don't know why, it just felt right. We even had you getting after it on '90s country, which surprised me.
And then to fast forward here, to make sure that it happened at this track, I'm just telling you, it meant a lot to me to be able to put it all together at this track because it's one that I feel like I've lost way more than I've ever gained here, and I wanted that damn clock. How are we going to get it home? What do you do? I'm going to ratchet strap it to my wife's SUV. We're going to be the Clampetts with our trophy ratchet strapped to the roof of the SUV, but it's coming home. (Laughter.)
THE MODERATOR: And you forgot to mention that Kansas made the Final Four last night.
CLINT BOWYER: Bob, did you watch that? I was following you on Twitter, and every picture Jenna posted was you watching Twitter instead of the damn game, Bob. That's sad. Come on. Every now and then you've got to let go of your job and enjoy the moment. And that's what I did last night as they won that‑‑ he's gone (pointing at Mike Bugarewicz). That's the attention span I have right there.
Q. Clint, how close were you to having to pit under green, and how much of a relief was that caution late there?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, that was a tidbit of information that came last after that pit stop. I could tell by his demeanor, he didn't want to tell me that. And I didn't want to hear it. I was like, oh, my gosh. I was wondering how we was going to lose this race, and that's going to be how we're going to lose it.
But man, I don't know why it just felt right; today was going to be our day. I had that confidence going into the race, and Mike had‑‑ I had good confidence in his strategy. He freed the car up more than I thought he was going to for the race, and over the years, you start this race and you're too tight and we're whining about too tight, too tight, and you always free up throughout this race. He made a good call before today's event and freed the car up, and I was too loose starting the race, but as the track came to us, our strategy came to us.
And the guys‑‑ let me tell you something. We've had a little bit of trouble in pit road as we've learned this new process and things. Those guys put it all together today when the time counted, when we put them on their marks. You come in leading, those guys got a lot of pressure on them, no different than anybody else on the team, and they answered that call as good as anybody and put us out in the lead, and that's what won us the race.
Q. October 2012 is a long time ago‑‑
CLINT BOWYER: That was off the record because I didn't have the mic.
Q. Your struggles since then are well‑documented‑‑
CLINT BOWYER: I appreciate that.
Q. In the six years since then, whether it was a race or a wreck or some small thing that happened in the race, what did you consider to be your low point, where you thought maybe you might not‑‑
CLINT BOWYER: That's all measured different, but you know, just‑‑ I think somebody said in my interview, six years is six second‑place finishes. I haven't won as many races as I needed to, but I've always been consistent, and that was always putting myself in position to have a shot at winning the championship at the end of the year. I finished second, had a lot of success in this sport, and being able to shine at the end of the year when the time is right for everybody involved, and over the last few years, I haven't been able to put all that together.
This is a year that's starting to shape up to where I feel like I'm accustomed to, way back when when I was confident that we were going to go to the end of the year and we were going to compete for a championship.
I'm with an organization, led by this short guy right here, that the experience is there. I'm telling you, when you think about Stewart‑Haas Racing, the opportunity‑‑ make no mistake, Gene Haas provides this opportunity for all of us. He was the first person that called me in Victory Lane.
You see that man wants success on the racetrack. He uses motorsports as a platform for his business. That's something that's important to all of us, as we're grasping for partnerships and everything else on these race cars. The proof is in the pudding, with this sport and any other. That F1 deal, look at them, they're starting to shine. They're starting to make a footprint in that F1 thing, and his determination and passion for motorsports is starting to bleed through even on an F1 platform, and I think that speaks volumes of his dedication to motorsports, and obviously on the Cup side it's something that we all appreciate very much as we provide for our families.
Tony Stewart, being able to get out of this car and retire, giving me the opportunity of all people, he could have picked anybody. This was something that meant a lot to me, as I've learned a lot from him over the years, and even at a place like this, he texted me‑‑ it was the only bummer text that I got all day long is it was his text instead of his old grizzly bear, but grabbing me in a choke hold or something and telling me what I needed to do right, it was a text from him saying, good luck today, you know what to do, be patient, let the race come to you, and that's exactly what we did, and that was a formula for winning. But it was a platform that he instilled in all of us.
You know, it's something that he and Zippy were very good at, being patient over the time, and won a lot of championships together, and then, you know, as you see my teammate in Kevin Harvick, everybody knows that we've been together‑‑ I mean, he's a big reason that I'm even here, and to be able to get in Victory Lane and to be able to share that with Buga and everybody on this 14 team‑‑ this is a fun team. This is a family. I mean, we have a group text and we make fun of each other like the old days. Like it's finally feeling right, know what I mean?
All of them. All of my team, it's fun to be able to go to work with all of them and to be able to share this win with them meant a lot to me.
Q. Clint, you mentioned in your opening remarks you've learned a lot about yourself last year. What have you learned about yourself throughout this, and I was talking to Martin Truex Jr., and he was coming towards Victory Lane, and he said, I know what it's like to go through these droughts and you've just got to keep fighting and all that. What did you learn about yourself in this process, getting back to Victory Lane?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, last year was tough for me because here's this opportunity you've been waiting on, and you weren't able to showcase what you thought was going to be there. But there was a lot, man, there was a lot on everybody's plate last year, and everybody worked so hard at Stewart‑Haas Racing. It wasn't a lack of effort on anybody's part, particularly when you think about the 14 team. Obviously we were all trying as hard as we could. We finished second three times last year. We got close. We just had too many valleys in between the peaks.
But then all of a sudden towards the end of the year, the 4 car, we all started‑‑ you just feel it, know what I mean? We finally found our way and got on that train track, and away it went. Fast forward through the off‑season, we were all‑‑ Zippy made some good adjustments. Gibson come off the road and he's working hard and helping everybody in the shop and keeping all the cars the same, the welcomed addition of Aric coming on and driving that 10 car. Just look at the results and the difference it's made.
You can't look at an organization as one team and one car. You'll fail. Now you're starting to see four cars running well week in and week out, in the points, every single race, every single lap. You look over and you see the Stewart‑Haas cars. That's the way it needs to be to be successful all across the board at an organization, and that's what I see at Stewart‑Haas.
Q. Did you ever have any doubts?
CLINT BOWYER: Hell yes. Yes, it was pretty dark for a few times. That was a year.
Q. Mike, can you explain what happened with the fuel situation, how close you guys were going to have to come in? And Clint, I know you talked about being able to have family and that was something special, but what else‑‑ what did you miss with not having to have won in that period, being such a competitor that you are? What is it that somebody like that misses?
CLINT BOWYER: He knows my attention span because if I don't answer right now, I will forget what you asked.
What you miss is that opportunity. I mean, it's been a long time since I've won, and I know that. I mean, everybody‑‑ you guys, everybody that follows this sport, you guys follow this sport, and so proud of all of you guys. I mean, when you‑‑ I never have to wonder anymore because of the power of social media or anything else, right, wrong or indifferent, you never have to wonder what's going on in our sport, what somebody is doing, what somebody is thinking, what somebody is working on, the weather, anything. There's nothing that you guys don't cover within this sport accurately and on top.
So you guys answered that call, and you remind me that I haven't won in a long time. So that is something that I've missed. I mean, it's that confidence, that‑‑ I don't know what it is about being in Victory Lane and sharing that, but that's that burden that's been haunting me for a long time. It's finally off your back, and you can finally have confidence knowing that you're a winner again.
MIKE BUGAREWICZ: Yeah, and to answer your question about the fuel situation, he was right, I was kind of apprehensive how much I wanted to share it, with the day we were having. But you know, in some senses, you look at this track versus others, and there's definitely other places out there it could have been way more detrimental. We were about three gallons short roughly, and I think that that puts us about 125 laps into a run. Competition is running 160 laps. I feel like if I started to pit, they were going to kind of come with us. We were planning to run it to the end, until we were just about out of fuel and come down and pit and hope that we didn't get caught with a caution or something but that it would pull everybody else down.
Q. If I told you that Kansas was going to win and go to the Final Four or that you were going to win this weekend, which would you have believed more?
CLINT BOWYER: How about them ol' Kansas boys, huh? It was a good week to be a Kansan. Let me tell you something, that tested my heart last night watching them. I was like, they just gave this away. With that seven‑point lead, you get cocky. And my best friend is a K‑Stater, and I was trying to ‑‑ he was here all week long, and I was trying to help him cheer for the K‑Staters, and then they lost.
He didn't do a very good job helping me celebrate for KU, but nonetheless, the ol' Kansas boys won, and it was a good week to be a Kansan, that's for sure. When is it? It's this weekend, right? It's Monday. Hey, babe‑‑ I mean, this is a positive thing. Can I ride this wave of momentum and make it? It's KU. Sounds like there's no chance that that's going to happen. I had my best friend and their two kids here for a week, seven days, and she enlightened me that that was a lot on her plate.
So I'd say that, yeah, I'm going to be watching in my basement. But you're welcome to come, Bob. But leave your damn phone in the truck.
Q. You've talked about the pressure a lot. Which was worse, not winning in 190 races‑‑
CLINT BOWYER: God, really? Did you have to say that?
Q. Sorry. Or not winning‑‑
CLINT BOWYER: This is my boss, know what I mean?
Q. He knows.
GREG ZIPADELLI: I can't use that anymore.
Q. Or not winning once you got in this particular car?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, that's the one that really matters to me is I finally got lined back up with not only race winning, a race‑winning team and a race‑winning organization, but a championship‑winning team and a championship‑winning organization. That's where the frustration started to set in.
And the worry, man. That's when you start panicking, and I'm not going to lie. Everybody knows, last year that was a lot of panic on my behalf, on Mike's behalf, everybody's behalf. I mean, we're expected to perform. We've got this opportunity, and we just couldn't put it all together. I'm telling you, this year it's‑‑ racing is fun again. I wish I could show you my text message to Tony Stewart this morning. He told me all the things that I needed to do, and he knows my demeanor and everything else. The normal Tony Stewart text to me, and I told hick, don't worry about it, this s‑‑‑ is fun again, and that's what I told him, know what I mean? And our cars are good, all four cars are good, and you're going to have a good shot at winning this race today and having a grandfather clock. But that one is coming to my house.
Q. Obviously you're going to probably party the night away and have a‑‑
CLINT BOWYER: I was thinking about going to bed. (Laughter.)
That's a lie.
Q. You've got the off weekend coming up‑‑
CLINT BOWYER: Going to the hospital. That would be a safer measure for me right now, jumping in whatever ambulance is tell here and tell them‑‑ just beg them to take me to the hospital.
Q. When that's all over, when do you put your head back down and go to work, like okay, I got the win, but this isn't enough, I need to keep pushing?
CLINT BOWYER: Thank God there's an off week. That's exactly a good point. Do we have to go to Texas? That's the thing is somehow, some way we've got to get wrangled back up and go to Texas. There's not a whole lot‑‑ I mean, we can win there, but we've got to start focusing on‑‑ hey, we're in the Chase. It's been a long time. We're in the Chase. Not to mention it's fun.
I'm not lying when I texted Tony Stewart, this is good times. This is fun to be in this equipment. It's fun to be alongside our teammates. I appreciate this opportunity more than it's hard to say, know what I mean? Everybody that knows me know that I have fun and run my mouth and I'm goofy and everything else, but I do appreciate this opportunity and appreciate the army of people that make this possible for all of us.
Q. Clint, what made you of Lakeside? I know you were talking about your brother on the backstretch.
CLINT BOWYER: I'm telling you, off of Turn 4 at Lakeside Speedway, it was always that way. He's a large kid. That big kid was always the one that would move everybody out of the way, and he'd come off of Turn 4, and you'd look up and you'd see your brother telling you that it was a good gap or it was close or run the bottom, run the top. I mean, we don't have‑‑ you didn't have Brett Griffin, your eye in the sky and everything, you had your brother that was fortunately way bigger than everybody else. You didn't even have to worry about putting him in like bright orange or anything. It didn't matter what color he was in, you could pick him out of the crowd, and he'd be telling you what it was, and I'm not lying that going down the back straightaway, he's always been usually back there in front of my bus, and it's somebody that you can see, and it's just that calming thing or whatever. It was like, I thought of Lakeside as soon as I saw him.
Q. And is this the best feeling you've had since you and Pattie back in 2012?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, since you said‑‑ well, since that little boy came along, how about that? That was a pretty good feeling.
Q. Bowyer was eerily quiet today. Is that how you knew he had a great car, because he wasn't talking about anything, he was kind of focused‑‑
CLINT BOWYER: I was busy, dammit. That's Kyle Busch in your mirror. That car presents pretty big in the rear view mirror and is a hard one to keep in the rear view mirror. Yeah, I even got a little cotton mouth that last run. I needed a drink of water, and I wasn't going to let of the steering wheel to get that. But just knew that the opportunity was right and it was in my hands, and I needed to do my job, and Mike gave me that opportunity and all the guys, the pit crew guys and everybody else. It was in my hands to go out there and get the job done, and Brett helped me manage that last run as good as you could ask. I mean, he's more than just a spotter. He knew that‑‑ I mean, you could see it. As soon as he said it, I saw it in the mirror, you saw the 18 finally quit pushing and back off, try to save his stuff for the end of that run, and Brett picked it up, helped me back up my run a little bit, and save my tires, not just push that throttle through the floorboard up off the corners and not lean on the wheel too hard, all the things it takes. Not push the brakes too hard, be easy on your stuff and try to save them because you knew Kyle was doing that same thing behind you. He'd make a run at you, and we tried to pick it up a little bit, and I was able to match his runs, and that's when I knew we had him without something crazy happening.
Then you see‑‑ I don't know who it was that was smoking, on fire, whatever else. Thank God they pulled in. I did not want to have to deal with a restart.
Q. Clint, you mentioned dark days and confidence and whatnot‑‑
CLINT BOWYER: It wasn't too dark. I mean, there's been a lot of good things happen in my life.
Q. But when you go through the struggles and down times and not winning, why do you keep coming back? Why do you not throw up your hands and say, why am I doing this?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, I love this sport, and everybody knows me, but there's one thing I hope everybody knows is how much I do love this sport and love the opportunity‑‑ I love people. I love coming to the truck every week. I love‑‑ it's always been a big thing to me having that damn thing parked up front. You want that‑‑ the parking stall, that's what I hated when they moved to team stalls and everything else. That was a big thing to me. When you're parked up front, you're a part of‑‑ you're with the men and not with the boys, and I've been with the boys a few times. But there's a lot of pride in being up there with the men and racing up front.
But it's the competition. But more than that, it's being able to get out and have an opportunity to have your nerves run through the roof, cotton mouth, everything I was telling you, I'm telling you, your legs shaking and everything else with 10 to go. It's been a long time since I've felt that anxiety, that much emotion, and then to cap it all off, I look over after the front straightaway, and here comes my kid running down the front straightaway, and I lost it then. I'm not going to lie, that was the one that capped it all off for me, but that's why I keep doing it, because it is fun, because we're very fortunate to be a part of a wonderful thing, and we all know that.
You guys write about this more than anybody. We all live this together, traveling across the country, and we're all fortunate to be a part of it, the sponsors and everything that's behind us, Rusty. I mean, they're not just sponsors anymore. They're partners. You know them. They're a conversation. They're an invite to their house. It's no different than it is back‑‑ the following way: Rusty, Rush Truck Centers, he was on the phone with me. We've all been to Rusty's house. We've hung out with him. We've enjoyed him. To be able to have those partners and those relationships still to this day, I can't wait to get to my phone.
Speaking of relationships, I guarantee you that's the neatest thing about motorsports and everything, part of it, is when I get to that phone it'll be people from Richard Childress that gave me this opportunity, to Michael Waltrip, who gave me an opportunity in 2012, to fast forward to Tony Stewart, the people that are giving me this opportunity today, and these guys that I'll be able to share this stage with. Those are the cool things that you'll remember forever.
Q. You had beer in Victory Lane, you grabbed your kids, you went up in the grandstands and sprayed champagne. You jumped on the roof. Did you get everything out that you wanted to get out, that was bottled up?
CLINT BOWYER: Hell no. It ain't even dark yet.
Q. What's the rest of the night look like?
CLINT BOWYER: But I will say Harvick's beers, there's no way his little skinny ass could ‑‑ these are stovepipes. You can't just‑‑ that lady right there, she's like, will you chug that for NASCAR.com. It's a damn stovepipe. I've been drinking a long time, there ain't nobody that could chug a stovepipe and give an interview afterwards. Buga will, but he's an IPA guy. College boys, I don't know.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports