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.
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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.