CHARLOTTE, N.C. — This will be Clint Bowyer’s second season as part of Stewart-Haas Racing and the 38-year-old Kansas native is ready to hit the ground running.
Bowyer and the No. 14 team struggled last season, scoring just six top-five and 13 top-10 finishes en route to an 18th-place championship effort. He admits there is pressure to perform this year, but says that pressure is there no matter what.
“Every year is a make or break year. It doesn’t matter if it is your first year or your third year or your 12th year,” said Bowyer. “It is always that pressure and it is always on. Nobody puts that on. We are competitors. I have raced since I was five years old. I have always wanted to win. Once you get a taste of that, there is no going back from that.
“Last year, it was disappointing. My disappointment came from a lack of consistency. That has always been my M.O. and how I was always able to make playoffs if I did or compete for a championship if we did. It was through consistency and knocking on the door and not having bad runs. We were spraying it all over the place last year. We would have good runs and bad runs and I really look for Stewart-Haas to smooth those things out.”
Some of that inconsistency Bowyer believes stems from Stewart-Haas Racing’s manufacturer change from Chevrolet to Ford prior to the 2017 season. He’s confident that will no longer be a factor since that Stewart-Haas has a season with the Ford program in the bank.
“Looking back on last year, which I hate to do, it was a lot of new,” Bowyer said. “It was constant catching up and learning and trying to get your cars back to the track with those enhancements, whatever it was. It was just a lot. It was very taxing on everybody at that shop. You saw it from the management to the army down on the floor. It was all hands on deck constantly.
“That manufacturer change was the best thing, in my opinion, that they have done in a long time. You are going to have growing pains because you have to learn a whole new everything. From your database to the aero platform to all that stuff. To have that behind us, the winter, the off-season has been way easier. It was pretty chaotic last year. I think we have weathered that storm and we are ready.”
Bowyer’s last Cup Series victory came in 2012 when he was driving for Michael Waltrip Racing. Since then he’s finished second six times, including three times last year in the No. 14 Ford. Will he finally break that drought this season? Bowyer knows he’s going to have to give it his all to get the job done.
“We are going to have to be better than we were last year,” Bowyer said. “The competition is going to be better. Another manufacturer (Chevrolet) has stepped it up with aero and a new car and everything else. There are new tracks and the new tech procedures. I think it is going to be another step of what we saw last year, even worse at times.”