By: Cole Cusumano
AVONDALE, Ariz. — Clint Bowyer has consistently been one of the fastest cars all season on Fridays and Saturdays. He’s posted a top-10 speed in four of the last six practice sessions, qualified ninth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and started from that pole at Auto Club Speedway. Where he’s finished on Sundays is a different story.
The Kansas-native’s best finish came in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Since then, his best result was 12th at Vegas. The driver of the No. 14 Ford Mustang is fully aware of his speed translation to race day and believes his team has the capability of turning things around before it gets out of hand.
“We have proven that we can be fast one lap, but we need to be fast for 40 laps and that is what I am focused on,” Bowyer told POPULAR SPEED. “The cars are fast. They have good speed, they just didn’t show it on a long run and over the course of a run we fell off really bad obviously. We had a bad weekend.”
The 40-year-old driver took the green flag in the Auto Club 400 from P1, but ended up finishing 23rd due to a broken valve stem. Although, it was more than a tire malfunction that aided in a poor result for Bowyer. After leading 10 laps, he plummeted like a rock out of the top-10 and struggled dramatically with the handling of his Ford Mustang – as has been the case for most of the season thus far.
“Your aero platform and all that stuff has to jive,” Bowyer revealed. “Your aero has to communicate and work well with your chassis balance and vice versa. It is the total package. It is not just that you missed it with 100 pounds too much right rear spring or 50 too much of left rear wedge or a track bar adjustment. It is all tied together from the aero side of things and the chassis side of things. They really have to work well together. If not, you are spinning your wheels.”
In addition to precisely fine-tuning their No. 14, Bowyer admits that the Fords are also tasked with keeping up with the Chevrolets this season. Through three races, it seems as if Hendrick Motorsports performance has increased and Stewart-Haas Racing is failing to keep up, resulting in a momentum switch for the opposing teams.
“There is a new manufacturer with a new body and you knew that they were going to be better. And they are a lot better,” Bowyer stated. “You have to get better. In getting better, you try to get outside the sandbox and try something and obviously we thought we would be better than we were.”
The Cup Series heads South from Fontana to the blistering desert heat at Phoenix Raceway, and this has potential to be a turnaround race for the No. 14 team. Over the last two years, Bowyer has finished inside of the top-10 twice and can just shy of adding to that total with an 11th-place result.
Although NASCAR has implemented a new short track package for the teams this weekend, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver revealed it “wasn’t a big change.” We’ll have to wait and see, but if there truly isn’t much alteration to how the cars drive, Bowyer may see warranted results come Sunday in the FanShield 500 from Phoenix Raceway.