Clint Bowyer’s son, Cash, will be 3 1/2 years old when the green flag drops on the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.
It also will have been 5 1/2 years since Bowyer drove to Victory Lane in auto racing’s top stock-car series.
“I want to get my kid to Victory Lane. Period,” Bowyer, a native of Emporia, Kan., said Jan. 25 during a phone interview. “I’ve had a really long career in this sport and had a lot of really good times in this sport. Unfortunately, he wasn’t around to see any of that.”
Bowyer, who is entering his 13th full-time Cup season and second with Stewart-Haas Racing, won at least one race in five of six seasons from 2007 to 2012, including a career-best three checkered flags in the last year of that span.
He’s started 185 races since without another victory.
“The last couple years, since he’s been around, haven’t been the best,” Bowyer said. “Before I’m done with this sport, I want him to experience some of the highs that I was able to experience in years prior. He’s getting to the age where he says, ‘Daddy, I want to win.’”
So, it’s no surprise finishing first tops the list of Bowyer’s goals for the upcoming season.
“Item number one, we’ve got to win a (darn) race,” Bowyer said. “I’ve got to get that behind me and be able to prove to myself and to everybody else that we’re capable of winning and not just being a part of the show.”
“There was no set day it slapped me in the face, but, hell, you want to win. I grew up winning, you know what I mean? And it’s been years. It’s hard to believe when I really think back at it. From my racing career, it’s just hard to believe that it’s been that long.”
Bowyer has long considered consistency among his best traits as a driver.
But last year, for only the second time in his career, Bowyer’s average finish was worse than his average start. He craves a return to consistency.
“Looking back at my career, consistency was the name of my game,” Bowyer said. “But last year, it was just nonexistent. Literally, I ended the season just mad, because the consistency and all the things I felt like I was good at couldn’t be showcased. It pissed me off I wasn’t a part of the playoffs. The stage points and stuff like that really changed the outcome and shape of that drastically, so we narrowly missed that thing and it was a huge letdown.”
There were several good reasons for that.
Stewart-Haas Racing underwent a manufacturer change from Chevrolet to Ford in 2017, forcing virtually every aspect of the four-car team to start from scratch.
Bowyer also was starting his relationship with crew chief Mike Bugarewicz from scratch, joining a new team after one season wandering in the Monster Energy Cup woods with HScott Motorsports.
But all that chaos is behind Bowyer, who enters 2018 more hopeful than he’s been a long while.
“Finally starting the season off and knowing what you’ve got, knowing what you need to work on, knowing where you’re strong — the preparation is so much better this year than it’s probably been in four years,” Bowyer said.