GAYLORD, Mich. — In all sports there are ranks and a place for everyone. From the person who makes their passion fit around their job to the individual who has made it to the pros. Auto racing is no different.
There are the weekend warriors and the superstars, but what makes racing so unique from other professional sports is the draw to a Saturday night short track. You probably wouldn’t see Derek Jeter playing a game of bar league baseball, but you will see a driver like Clint Bowyer get down and dirty in a modified at a half-mile dirt track like Volusia Speedway Park.
So what is the draw for the Emporia, Kan., native? For Bowyer, it’s getting back to his roots. “I grew up running motocross when I was 4 years old and then I started racing in street stocks when I was 16. Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, Kan.) is where I got my start racing under the NASCAR banner and then I moved on I-70 Speedway (Odessa, Mo.) on the asphalt in 2002 and that’s when my career really started picking up.”
In that 2002 season, Bowyer captured the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Midwest Championship after taking the modified track title on the dirt at Lakeside and the late-model title at I-70, in 2003 he concentrated his efforts on the weekly racing series, but also competed in two ARCA events. With an amazing second-place finish in his series debut Bowyer landed an opportunity to run a limited NASACR Nationwide schedule in 2004 which has progressed into a very successful Sprint Cup career.
The road to racing’s elite division was one filled with hard work and determination
“It seems like it was a long road to get here, but when I look back at it, it really hasn’t been that long,” Bowyer said. Bowyer had obtained his life’s dream before the age of 30, but instead of looking back at the path he took as “paying his dues,” Bowyer finds himself drawn to the rumble of high-compression engines and the smell of burning racing fuel at every opportunity.
“Racing the mod is a stress reliever for me to be honest. The key is to have fun with it,” Bowyer said. “Everyone just has such a good time racing these modifieds and it’s still relatively affordable. It’s getting out of control like all forms of motorsports, but it’s as close as you can get to affordable racing where you can have fun with it.”
Strapping into his No. 33 modified may be a fun past time for Bowyer, but his involvement in short-track racing extends far beyond that. He also owns Clint Bowyer Racing, a dirt-late-model team with standout driver Dale McDowell currently at the controls of the Lucas Oil Series No. 17m, and although Bowyer can be found occasionally playing the role of a team mechanic, he has no intention of taking over the ride himself.
“The late-model deal is just a little too competitive,” he says. “I didn’t race dirt late models coming through the ranks. For me running a couple times a year, I just couldn’t run with those guys. At least in the modifieds for some reason, I can get in one, compete, run up front and have fun with it.”
When it comes to the future, Bowyer has one focus.
“I want to win a Cup championship. At the end of the day the reason why I put a helmet on every week is to win that championship and hopefully one day that dream will come true,” Bowyer said.
When he isn’t focused on Sunday’s race or the season ahead Bowyer spends his time, “Having fun with friends and just being at the race track. If it wasn’t so much fun I wouldn’t be at the track getting all dirty and working my butt off, but it’s what I do. It’s what I grew up doing and where I am most comfortable.”