This spring’s Kansas Speedway homecoming has a different feel for Clint Bowyer.
He’s never raced at his home track, located less than 100 miles from Bowyer’s native Emporia, Kan., without Carl Edwards in the field.
That has changed after Edwards, a Columbia native, stepped away from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in January, leaving Bowyer alone among the hometown favorites for Saturday’s Go Bowling 400.
“I finally got him,” Bowyer, 37, said with a laugh. “Took care of that problem. No, but it (stinks). I enjoyed that, and I enjoyed Carl. Carl did such a great job of promoting our sport and was a great brand ambassador for whoever was on the side of it. He’s missed. We both were Midwestern boys, grew up chasing this dream kind of together. We’re the same age and everything else, so Carl not being here is a little bit of a bummer.”
Bowyer’s career-worst checkered flag drought also is a bummer. He hasn’t won a Cup race since October 2012 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a span of 159 races, but he’s optimistic a breakthrough is on the horizon.
During his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing, Bowyer owns four top-10 finishes in the season’s first 10 races, including a third-place effort at Auto Club Speedway and a runner-up finish last month at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“Had I got out in front of (race winner Jimmie Johnson on the final restart at Bristol), I would have won the race,” Bowyer said. “We are knocking on the door.”
While Kansas hasn’t been kind to Bowyer, especially lately, a win Saturday would mean the world to Bowyer.
“If that was to happen, I probably wouldn’t be in very good shape for Mother’s Day,” Bowyer joked. “We would probably have to postpone that to Monday. It would be huge to win at home and finally seal the deal after all this time. It would be ultra-special. … All my family and friends and people that helped me get to where I am today all live here in the area and it would be cool to celebrate that with them.”
Bowyer claimed back-to-back top-10 finishes in 2006 and 2007 during his first Cup races at Kansas, including a runner-up finish in his second appearance.
Bowyer owns only three top-10 finishes in 15 races since and hasn’t crossed the line better than 14th since the spring race in 2013, but he’s having fun again after an uncompetitive transition season with HScott Motorsports last season.
“It wasn’t fun,” Bowyer said. “It wasn’t fun for anybody, especially me. It is by us. The good news is the bus picked us up and we jumped on the fun bus clear back in Daytona. … When I walked out of one building and got into the other one it was a fun time, trust me. It was overnight. I woke up one morning as a Stewart-Haas employee. That was a good time.”
Now, Bowyer’s building chemistry and communication with a new team, including crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, and hoping to add to his career haul of eight Cup wins this season.
“Do I think we are going to make the playoffs? Yes,” Bowyer said. “I am not saying that arrogantly or to be cocky, I just feel like we are a team that is going to be in that one way, shape or form.”