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June 10, 2018
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race winning driver, Clint Bowyer.
CLINT BOWYER: Can you believe it? Say that again.
THE MODERATOR: Race winning driver, driver of the No. 14 Haas 30 Years of the Haas VF‑1 Ford.
CLINT BOWYER: The last time we win, Martinsville, we was in Haas VF‑1 Ford. Such a cool paint scheme. 'Very first one' is what that stands for. It's the man. It's the man that makes it happen at Stewart‑Haas Racing.
Obviously everybody knows what Tony brought to the table at this thing. Gene is that rock behind all of us that enables us to go out and perform at our best. It's never a question of what does it take financially, anything else. It's what does it take to win, what does it take to be better, what does it take to find Victory Lane. Those are questions that Gene Haas asks, and that's it.
He doesn't talk about, That was a good top‑10 finish. You can be proud of a good run. Maybe that was a track you struggled at, run fifth or sixth or something. No call. Winning and winning only is what he does in his industry. It bleeds through to his employees and everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing.
Now you see him embarking on his Formula 1 ventures. Amazing what he's done in motorsports the last few years.
THE MODERATOR: Your win today makes that seven of the first 15 races of the season being won by Stewart‑Haas Racing.
CLINT BOWYER: That's the Army. That's the Army that Tony and him assembled, orchestrated from Brett Frood and Greg Zipadelli.
So much fun to be in this equipment. Last year was a shocker to me, it was. It was frustrating. You get this opportunity. You're thinking, Boy, we got them, I'm back on the map. Just didn't happen.
Mike and I didn't have that communication down, our cars weren't really good all the way through. The 4 car was good, hit‑and‑miss here and there. Collectively all four cars weren't that good.
Zipadelli and Brett made some personnel changes, changed people around, put those pieces of the puzzle together differently this year going into this season. I mean, it's go cat, go. Literally being with the manufacturer, Ford, being with Roush‑Yates engines, that horsepower under the hood, it's just a deadly combination.
Then you get to race against teammates like Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, to be back in the communication side of it, the competition meetings, things like that, the things you talk about now we're all talking the same language. It's not I'm loose this week, I'm kind of tight this week. Everybody is fighting the same things. Collectively across the board with all four cars are having those same conversations, getting better and better. It showed, 1‑2‑3 was awesome.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. During the struggles last year, did you ever start to doubt yourself at all?
CLINT BOWYER: You know, the weird thing is not really. As good as the 4 car was running, things like that, you could see the ingredients, you could see the potential. We just couldn't reach it. I mean, it was so apparent that that potential was there, within Buga, all the guys on our 14 team they're such a tight‑knit group. That was instilled through Tony. Those were his boys. They're all his buddies, all hang out together. A great race team.
We just didn't unload fast. You know what I mean? We could. We'd be hit, miss, miss miss miss, hit hit, miss. We had zero consistency.
We've had that consistency this year, till last month. Then it was, Whoa, what was that? You know what I mean? Had the stage points, ran well during the race. Just for whatever reason, crazy things would happen. But it's never been a question of commitment with our race team and potential. You know what I mean?
I think that's what gets you through those tough times, is when you see the potential. Not only see it, you feel it. You can lie to yourself. You can lie to anybody else. But success is the only thing that brings that potential to the forefront and bleeds over across the board to everybody in the race team.
Once that started to happen this year, it's been so much fun across the board. That's not just on the 14 car, it's on Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch. We're all collecting stage points, doing the things that it takes to be there and compete for a championship at the end. The 4 car is knocking it out of the park. One more lap he would have won another damn race.
That was a gutsy call. I was so proud of Mike for making that call. That's uncharacteristic for him. You know what I mean? Pulling no punches, he's not a gambler. He has so many strong suits. He's such a good engineer, such a smart person. That's how smart he is. He knows not to gamble. Smart people don't gamble (laughter).
I don't know. He felt something. He went for it. Somehow I was able to hold off Kevin. One more lap I wouldn't have. That was that call that put us in that situation and won that race for us. I was so happy for him.
Q. You mentioned competing for a championship. You had a really good year at Richard Childress Racing. You had one really good year at Michael Waltrip Racing. How would you evaluate the situation you're in now? After last year, does it feel a little better being able to take advantage of the opportunity that you were given here?
CLINT BOWYER: To be able to compete at that level, that level is a championship‑caliber team, you have to be able to unload week in, week out with cars capable of getting the job done. Part of that is‑‑ most of that is the work that's put in before the week even starts. It's months ahead preparing that car for any given weekend. Then it's the communication leading into the race. Then it's communication through Friday, through qualifying, through Saturday's practice sessions, and collectively putting that all together for Sunday.
We're starting to do that. We're starting that notebook that we all talk about. It's finally starting to resonate to where you can look at it. Like, I can go back and look at last year. All right, I remember that. We're not going to do that. We'll be better there. We have to learn from that mistake, so on and so forth. Those are the things we're starting to pick up on.
As we go through these races, the thing that I love the most about the season is we start going back to these races for the second time in that Chase. That notebook is even bigger for us because our cars have been unloading fast, now it's just fine‑tuning. It's not that massive overall change, setup you have to do going into one of those Chase races. It's a fine‑tune like this race in particular.
You come here, we weren't going to beat the 4 car, but we were a podium finish car. You have to be able to capitalize on that, learn a little bit what it takes to go out there and lead those laps to be able to run for a championship. But more importantly, you have to knock on that door week in and week out. You have to build that notebook so you can start the Chase and run in the top five every single week. That will put you at the end.
Q. You have a new car coming next year. How far along are you so you don't have the same teething problems that the Chevy guys do?
CLINT BOWYER: The series in general is ever evolving. The rule packages and things like that. I mean, this year we implemented the scanning procedures that we have, things like that. I think that probably caught some of those Chevy teams off guard as they built and designed that car. Who knows what is going to be in front of the Ford.
Of course, when you build a car, you learn from what you have, you try to put forth your best effort, your best foot forward into building a new car, that Mustang that's going to be awesome for us. It will be better. We all have confidence, as good as we are right now, that we can build that Mustang and be even better.
Q. Do you feel like you stole one today, said you weren't going to beat the 4 car?
CLINT BOWYER: I beat him. Make no mistake, I beat him (laughter).
No, it's just your friend. You know what I mean? That's the guy when I came into this sport at RCR, went to the first test, he's the guy that was there. I had no clue what the hell I was doing. He helped me get my feet underneath of me. I think he knew right off the bat that I was very green. Took me under his wing and helped me out.
He's the guy right now. Him and Kyle Busch are the two that are shining the most. To be able to start at a deficit, try to run that track bar up as far as it would go, because you know you're going to be tight on two tires, try to hold onto that thing for as long as you can, praying for the rain is what it took.
It took that gutsy call from Mike to be able to put me in that situation, then to try that greasy bear off because he was coming quick.
Q. That's not stealing then?
CLINT BOWYER: I don't know. I mean, like I said, yeah, was he the fastest car today and all weekend long? Absolutely. Does the fastest car always win? No. That's what's cool about this sport: you never know what's going to happen.
Q. Could you talk about his call. Mike was funny in here. I asked him about making the call for two tires. He said he felt good about it, 100%.
CLINT BOWYER: Then turned around and threw up?
Q. Then on pit road 75%. Can you talk about that. Did you help with that call? Do you let him do that?
CLINT BOWYER: When I pulled out and looked in the mirror, like you do, it's a competition, a race when you're on pit road. Even when you're sitting there at a stop, you're looking in the mirror trying to figure out who you're racing with, are you going to have room out. There's nobody coming. There's nobody coming. He's committed to two tires.
I told those guys, I think I half ran over my crew guy. I'm looking in the mirror thinking, I have to get out in front of these guys. Surely some people are going to take two tires because he told me the rain is coming. We were the only ones. I was a mile ahead when I looked in the mirror. Everybody behind me is on four tires. I don't know what you're looking at but there's an Army of people on pit road that saw the same forecast, same radar, they took four.
Nonetheless, it was a gamble on his part. Like I said, it was uncharacteristic for him. That's part of growing, blossoming as a crew chief, being one of the elite. He did that today. I was so happy for him because that's something that the two years we've been together I haven't really seen a lot, for various reasons, some of them make sense, some of them don't. For him to be able to do that, put ourselves in Victory Lane, was really, really cool to see.
MIKE BUGAREWICZ: Based on that, did I make the right call?
CLINT BOWYER: Lucky ass (laughter).
Q. You talk about looking in the book, using the book to take notes, past performance. Both your wins this year have been in inclement weather. Seems like you and your crew chief, you're crunching the data, but sometimes it comes down to trusting your instincts on that weather. He said he saw a cloud going to the north. He knew there wasn't much time left.
CLINT BOWYER: He'll ask you your opinion. I don't have radar. Radar ain't on my dash.
(Crew dousing Clint with beer.)
We're going to drink a little bit tonight, by the way. That's going to happen. I know you guys are questioning it. It's going to happen tonight (laughter).
I drink more of Kevin Harvick's sponsor than I'm pretty sure he does. Pretty hell of a sponsor. I have no idea where we went with this. But there's nothing better than having a sponsor like that in Victory Lane to be able to celebrate. That is awesome.
But for you, I don't know what the hell he was thinking. He took two tires, won that race for us. I was super pumped for him.
The only thing that bummed me out today, as soon as I was sitting out there on pit road, you're trying to look out, I knew there was so much water coming on the windshield, but you're starting to see, you're looking out your side window, see how much rain is actually coming down, are they losing the track. Down three and four, it started to get pretty dark. As the leader, you don't want to be the guy calling in every single second saying, It's pouring, it's a monsoon. That doesn't hold any weight.
But it really was. Somebody else was saying the same thing. Like I said, when I pulled up out there, saw how much it was raining, I immediately went to my little guy, my family, my wife, my daughter Presley. They're not here yet because I sent my pilot back to pick them up. We're going to the lake, having a fun time at the lake this week. I told them. They didn't have a place to stay here in Michigan. I said, Hey, make sure we get to halfway to that second stage before you come up, otherwise I don't know where we're going to stay. Everybody is in hotel rooms, everything else. You guys are going to be sleeping in the Expedition or something.
They held off until it got official, then they're late getting here. I think they're here to pick me up. We're going to celebrate tonight.
Q. What does it mean to you to be able to win, Stewart‑Haas Racing gets the 1‑2‑3 sweep, first in the team's history?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, I think that's the coolest thing about it. You're up there looking in the mirror, even when I was running second, I said to myself, Gosh, this is a moment. We're running 1‑2‑3 at a track that is an aero track, that's a horsepower track, it's a demanding racetrack on your equipment. You have to be able to hit your marks, things like that.
When it comes down to sheer speed, 217 miles an hour we were talking this weekend, that's fast. That's fast in any motorsport. That's really fast in NASCAR. When you're on top, you're lined up, it's 1‑2‑3, Kevin and Kurt behind you, it's just awesome.
Then to be able to get there and give each other hugs, be happy, truly, genuinely happy for one another, that's what it takes. That's what it takes to push you to another level. Working together, the communication, pushing each other each week.
It's not just Kevin and Kurt and I and Aric. It's our teams, our crew chiefs, our pit crews, everybody that raises the bar for everybody involved. It's cool to see.
Q. Jerry Cook, what did you think about the way he had a hand in the car setup this weekend?
CLINT BOWYER: We missed him. Why we were struggling this last month, that's a common denominator. We had that penalty in Dover, missed him for two or three weeks. It showed.
When you have a team as solid as we have, you have that missing link for even a day, it showcases the following week. Tight‑knit group. They watch each other's back. They hang out with one another. That's the thing about these teams. They don't just show up and race day and leave on Monday. They work together, eat lunch together, their families go to dinner together. When they're on the road, they hang out together. They share rooms together. They eat dinner together. These guys are a tight‑knit group. When you lose one of them or somebody is off, it shows.
The last month, through Charlotte and everything else, that was a common denominator, is Jerry wasn't there. Cool to have everybody back, to be able to roll into Victory Lane, be able to celebrate all their hard work. That's what you're celebrating, all those guys' hard work, everything they put in not only today but the entire season. Their family sacrifices, everything across the board, that's what you're there celebrating.
Q. This puts you in good company in terms of having multiple victories.
CLINT BOWYER: Hot damn, yes.
Q. Can you talk about that.
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, of course it does. It's fun to be in elite company. It's a confidence booster. We're going into Sonoma. I don't want to jinx myself, but it's my favorite racetrack. I love that weekend. It's a vacation for everybody involved. It's a challenging racetrack. I'm good at it. I'm good at the place, you know what I mean?
You always look forward to going to tracks you're good at. We've gotten this confidence moment, wave going right now. Hopefully we can ride it off into Sonoma and enjoy some success there, as well.
Q. It sounds like Buga thought everybody was going to take two tires, so he wasn't really necessarily gambling.
CLINT BOWYER: He was wrong (laughter). He was drastically wrong on that.
If that is what he told you... I wouldn't have said a word. I would have said, You damn right I made that call. That was my call, I won the race. That's what I would have come in here and tell you.
When you get to bed tonight, your wife goes, Did you know that nobody else took two tires?
No, babe, no way.
So, yeah, doesn't matter. He made that call.
Q. Do you think he'll make gambles now?
CLINT BOWYER: I don't know. Now I'm scared. You got a guy that's never gambled before, now we're calling the hotline on the back of the card. It's what you're scared of. Who knows, maybe it will work for us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports