As NASCAR heads to Kansas Speedway this weekend, Clint Bowyer will touch familiar territory. The driver of the No. 14 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing grew up two hours just outside of Kansas City, in Emporia, Kansas. Kansas Speedway is nothing new to him, except this time around it will have a little different feel. And while there won’t be any fans in the stands to embrace his return because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he still looks forward to the visit.
“It’s always exciting to go back home - it’s home,” said Bowyer, who will be participating in Thursday night’s Super Start Batteries 400 presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts NASCAR Cup Series race. “I mean, it's literally that way. I mean we all experienced that a lot of people move away from home, going to college chasing their dreams, get a job, whatever. It's always fun to go back home and see things and for me, having family now and having kids it's fun for me kind of like I did with my parents to go back and see them and show them something about where you came from.”
The 2020 season has been a little bit of a different year for everyone, and Bowyer is no exception. Through 18 races he has compiled five top-10s and one pole, which came in the third race of the year at Auto Club Speedway. His last win came at Michigan in 2018. Nevertheless, Bowyer is trying to remain optimistic, and hoping that a little “home cooking” will help him this weekend.
“It has been a constant battle trying to dig ourselves out of a hole,” said Bowyer. “The way that the draw is for the top-12 it basically just protects those guys and makes it virtually impossible for anybody outside of that to capitalize on that first stage which puts them in a really good position points wise for the rest of the race. Furthermore, it puts you in a situation to have to try to gamble either at the tail end of that first stage or throughout that second stage to try to capitalize off some points whether it be that second stage or set yourself up for the end of the race. Anytime you go to gamble we all know that it can either win or lose big. Nine times out of 10 the house wins from what I can see. So, I am kind of frustrated in a sense that I feel like over the last month and a half we have had a lot better runs than our stats show. Again, just constantly digging yourself out of a hole because of the way we start these races has been a challenge. Very, very challenging as a matter of fact. Going back to Kansas, I always love going back there.”
Although many sports have been put on hold as a result of the pandemic, Bowyer knows this is a ripe time to be associated with Kansas City sports. He also realizes how much of an impact Kansas Speedway has had on the area since it was built in 2001.
“You can't ask for a better time to be in any city than right now in Kansas City,” Bowyer said. “And you know, the track, I've said time and time again, so proud of … we talk about the puzzle in our sport and all pieces of the puzzle have to come together. I mean just look at the impact in Wyandotte County when they put that piece of the puzzle at Kansas Speedway in there.”
It’s clear that Bowyer still has fond memories of his Kansas upbringing and he is still one of the most ardent Kansas City sports fans. In fact, he was in Miami in February to cheer on his beloved Chiefs as they defeated the 49ers to earn the second Super Bowl title in franchise history.
“I’m so proud to call that place home and to see what's happened because of that,” Bowyer said. “I’ve met so many good friends over the years and you know, just had a good winter. I saw (Patrick, Chiefs QB) Mahomes and (Travis, Chiefs TE) Kelce over at the lake and got with them a day and had fun with them. It is just a really good place to be from and to enjoy and looking forward to bringing in our sport there once again.”
He also sees NASCAR having a big role in the sports landscape of the area with his home track leading the way.
“Another thing about it is I think that the city embraces our sport well. When I go across the country, part of that's our doing and on us to be able to promote our sport. Honestly, if you have something and you're valid and relevant, the city embraces that and I see a lot of NASCAR when we come into town.”
And NASCAR fans in Kansas will enjoy having him back.
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