|credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs|
NASCAR veteran Clint Bowyer knows exactly what qualities he, as a team owner, wants in a young driver.
“You’ve gotta be good across the board – you got to be a total package,” said Bowyer in a recent interview. “You can’t just be an aggressive driver who wins races, you’ve got to take care of your car, you’ve got to finish that thing, you’ve gotta be consistent week in and week out.”
“You’ve gotta win, you’ve gotta win, you’ve gotta win – but you’ve gotta be consistent, handle yourself in extreme situations, you’ve gotta handle the media. I’ve got sponsors on those race cars, and I don’t babysit them each and every week – I need drivers who can handle themselves in any situation for those sponsors. Those guys race three and four nights a week, you can’t be tearing your equipment up, you’ve gotta be able to bring that car – sometimes the very next night – and race it again.”
With those qualities in the back of his mind, Bowyer, his Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Brian Vickers and Jeff Burton, team owner Michael Waltrip and longtime PEAK spokesperson Danica Patrick served as judges and coaches in the 2014 PEAK Stock Car Dream Challenge, a search to find an amateur racer who has what it takes to make it in the big leagues. The competition, featuring 18 drivers with various racing backgrounds, took place in early June at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and featured a number of different situations.
“There are six different stages of the Challenge, from a short track challenge to a big track, to endurance to a dirt track, to car control – there’s even a pressured situation on how to handle the media, so it really does go after all the aspects of our jobs and the best one gets to go on and make a name for themselves,” said Bowyer.
|credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs|
“The short track challenge was neat – I really liked that challenge, probably my favorite, because they got a list no different than we do when we come in for a pit stop – track bar, wedge, air pressure…we purposely kind of messed their cars up a little bit, gave them a list of adjustments to fix that and correct that. You’ve got 10 minutes to go out, make some laps, figure out what the car needs, tell us what the car needs, then go out and see if it made it better.”
The PEAK Stock Car Dream Challenge is in its second year, with 2013 winner Patrick Staropoli, a 24-year-old medical student from Plantation, FL recording three top 10 finishes in the K&N Pro Series West, including a win at Irwindale. The 2014 PEAK Stock Car Dream Challenge will air on the Velocity Channel on Saturday, Aug. 2 at 9 p.m. ET.
With his eye on the young talent currently in NASCAR, Bowyer has praise for the young drivers currently racing in NASCAR’s upper levels.
“Kyle Larson – what a talent he is. There’s no question Kyle’s gonna get better as he gains experience – he’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with in this sport for a long time. Chase Elliott’s done a good job at making a name for himself. The Dillon boys, I’ve been close to them for many years racing for Richard (Childress) and watching their careers blossom. But if I had to rate all of them, I’d say this Kyle kid is legit, he’s the real deal and the one everyone is going to be watching for a long time.”
|Lorra and Clint Bowyer at the 2013 Sprint Cup Awards|
credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/Chris Graythen
While Bowyer is watching the young guns on the track, off the track he’s getting ready to welcome a new member to his family – he and wife Lorra are expecting their first child, a son, in the fall.
“We’re expecting September 26, we’re pretty excited about it,” said Bowyer. “She’s getting pretty close, she’s starting to look like she’s ready.”
Bowyer hasn’t had to go to his counterparts on the track for advice – they offered it freely.
“They came running to me!” exclaimed Bowyer. “Matt Kenseth has been texting me every week, giving me crap about something. I think I always gave those guys a lot of trouble about changing diapers and now they’ve repaid the favor – but I’m ready for it.”
For now, however, Bowyer is focused on making the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“As long as we keep taking care of business – we’re in it right now, we don’t really have to do anything right now except maintain where we’re at,” said Bowyer. “But I don’t want to do that – I want to go on and win some races this year and compete for a championship. I want to get in championship form – I don’t want to get complacent and think about just getting by – we want to get better and get up there and compete for a championship like we have before.”