Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, is set to mark a milestone in his career. He will make his 200th Sprint Cup career start at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the Lenox Tools 301 this weekend.
“200 races means a lot to me,” Bowyer said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity just to be in this sport.”
“To think back to Phoenix and what that race meant to me and to now,” Bowyer said. “It truly meant a lot to my career.”
“That race is what led to all of this,” Bowyer continued. “I’m just thankful for all the opportunities along the way and I’m trying to make the most of them.”
Does the 200th start make the young driver feel just a tad bit old?
“No, it doesn’t make me feel old”, Bowyer said with a laugh. “But it does make you realize how fast time flies.”
“200 races, it’s like ‘Holy cow, already?’, Bowyer continued. “It’s just amazing how fast things happen.”
Bowyer will definitely have to try to make the most of his achievement, especially at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, with whom he seems to have a love/hate relationship.
NHMS was the site of Bowyer’s first ever Cup win, however, it was also be the beginning of the end of his Chase chances last year, when he suffered a lethal penalty that put him dead last in the Chase standings.
“Probably the best moment in my career was right here in New Hampshire with my first win,” Bowyer said. “And probably the worst was having that penalty right here.”
Although Bowyer has run well at the track in the past, he is not taking anything for granted for his upcoming race this weekend.
“We’ve always run well in a short flat-track program,” Bowyer said. “But there’s nothing saying that we’re not going to bring that same recipe back that we did last year and find that same success.”
“We’re going to have to work hard,” Bowyer continued. “And we’re going to have to find a good balance on our race car.”
“But it seems like it’s easier to find that balance for us on a track like this.”
Can the RCR driver put aside the penalty that he suffered the last time he was at New Hampshire Motor Speedway?
“It is what it is,” Bowyer said philosophically. “It doesn’t matter. It’s behind me.”
In fact, Bowyer is more worried about what happened to him last weekend at Kentucky than what he endured the last time he ran a race in New Hampshire. Bowyer had a terrible run in Kentucky, cutting a tire and wrecking in the waning laps of the race, finishing miserably in the 35th position.
“It’s frustrating to have to come back here and answer questions about last year because I’m worried about last week and overcoming last week; forget about last year,” Bowyer said.
Yet Bowyer is trying to put his bad week in his rear view mirror, especially in light of his 200th start milestone.
“It can very easily become a negative and spiral out of control,” Bowyer said. “But there are so many positives about our season. We’ve run well and that’s what has put us in this situation.”
Bowyer’s situation is that he is now 12th in points and battling mightily to make the Chase to contend for the 2011 NASCAR Cup championship.
“This is a crucial time for us,” Bowyer said. “We’ve got them breathing down our necks.”
“But I tell you, with this crazy wildcard thing, this is a good track for us to get a win and solidify ourselves in the Chase,” Bowyer continued. “So, it’s an important weekend for sure.”
Bowyer is definitely viewing his 200th career start as a chance to redeem himself and his race team. And for Bowyer, he wants to do so not just for himself but also his fans.
“This is a chance to redeem myself absolutely,” Bowyer said. “You see a guy with a shirt on their back and it’s a sense of pride as well as responsibility for me.”
“I look to go out there and run well for them and make them proud,” Bowyer continued.
Bowyer was fastest in practice but could not quite pull off a pole run. He qualified 12th, with a speed of 133.595 mph and a time of 28.540 seconds.
“New Hampshire has always been a great place for us to come,” Bowyer said. “The best thing is all the fans and all the people I have met over the years.”
“Those relationships you’ll have with you the rest of your life and will mean the most to you,” Bowyer continued. “It makes me focus on this next race to make sure there is another 200 races after that.”