Kansas would be perfect spot for a Clint Bowyer breakthrough
Clint Bowyer would love to get a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory at Kansas Speedway, the home track for the Emporia native and site of Saturday night's Go Bowling 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1).
Then again, Bowyer would love to get a victory anywhere.
Bowyer's last win-and incidentally, his only triumph on a 1.5-mile intermediate speedway-came in the fall race at Charlotte in 2012. Since then, 159 races have passed since Bowyer, 37, last found Victory Lane, as the Kansas driver experienced first-hand the dissolution of Michael Waltrip Racing.
Then came a year in stock car purgatory at now-defunct HScott Motorsports, as Bowyer waited for Tony Stewart to finish his retirement tour and exit the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing car.
In 2016, he posted an average finish of 23.6 with HScott and finished 27th in the final standings.
"Yeah, last year sucked. It wasn't fun. It wasn't fun for anybody, especially me," Bowyer acknowledged on Friday morning before opening practice at Kansas Speedway.
Everything changed when Bowyer began driving for Stewart-Haas-the attitude, the enjoyment and the results.
"The good news is the bus picked us up and we jumped on the fun bus clear back in Daytona," Bowyer said. "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."
In 10 races with SHR, Bowyer has a second-place finish at Bristol and a third at Fontana-two more top fives than he scored in 2016. Aside from the Daytona 500, where he was eliminated in a 17-car wreck on Lap 129, Bowyer has finished no worse than 15th in any race.
His average result of 11.8 is nearly 12 positions better than his average from last year. Accordingly, Bowyer says the 159-race drought isn't weighing on him.
"To be honest with you, you don't even think about that," Bowyer said. "You think about winning. I never think about how long it's been. I think about how you're going to get it done.
"You have that thought process through the week as you're going through competition meetings starting Monday and your conversations with the crew chief all week long. The biggest thing is you're lined back up with an organization that's capable of doing that. That's item number one."
Should Bowyer's winless streak end at his home track on Saturday night, Mother's Day might have to wait 24 hours as the No. 14 team recovers from the victory party.
"If that was to happen, I probably wouldn't be in very good shape for Mother's Day," Bowyer admitted. "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.
"I don't know that it would be any more special than the first time I raced here, though. It's one of the tracks I've always wanted to win at. 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."
KANSAS SPEEDWAY PROVES CHALLENGING WITH 2017 PACKAGE
The combination of a maturing Kansas Speedway and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series' lower-downforce aerodynamic package made negotiating the 1.5-mile intermediate track a formidable challenge-even in practice.
Incidents affected both Friday practice sessions. Dale Earnhardt Jr. barely kept his No. 88 Chevrolet off the Turn 4 wall in opening practice, with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson fighting for control behind him.
Erik Jones spun into the infield grass but avoided serious damage to his No. 77 Toyota. The car was repaired for the second session.
Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson both scraped the Turn 2 wall in the second session, but the damage was far more serious on Larson's Chevrolet. His team quickly rolled out a backup No. 42.
"I felt like I was going to crash every lap since we unloaded today," Larson, the series leader, said as his team worked to prepare the backup car. "We only made like seven laps the first practice because I was spinning out every time. They made some big adjustments there between practices...
"I just tried to open my entry up a little bit in (Turn) 1 and it stepped out on me, I felt, before I ever got to the corner, and I mean I didn't have really time to chase it. I feel bad that I wrecked a primary car. Our backup should be just as good, if not better than our primary. Yeah, it's just really, really edgy for some reason this weekend."
NASCAR'S LONGEST RACE IS ON EARNHARDT'S BUCKET LIST
In Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s case, familiarity breeds desire.
Asked which race he'd most like to win in his final season of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing, Earnhardt immediately thought of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the track closest to his Mooresville, N.C., home.
"The 600 would be awesome," Earnhardt told the NASCAR Wire Service on Friday at Kansas Speedway. "Charlotte is our home track, and (we) haven't won a point's race there. So, I would like to win there, but there's a long list. Any of them that we haven't won at would be great.
"Any win this year, right, would be good. But if I had to pick, Charlotte would be... winning the 600 would mean a lot. I always went to that race as a little kid, so I like to win at the places where I spent tons of time growing up, and that was one of them."
-- NASCAR Wire Service --