As a former short-tracker, Sprint Cup driver Clint Bowyer’s rise on road courses seems to somewhat baffle even him. He admits to not expecting to win last year at Sonoma Raceway – “not in a million years,” he emphasized – and seems to chalk up his success on the twisty tracks to forces outside himself.
“I think a big part of it is engineering,” he said on Friday at Sonoma. “They came into this sport – our engineers were able to get our cars underneath us way better than we could before. Those ‘ringers’ would go test time and time again all over the place, all sorts of different race tracks in preparation for these one or two races, and when we’d get there, our focus is on those mile-and-a-half tracks that make up the biggest part of the season. That’s a big difference.
“When we get here [now] and we’re on the same playing field as they are, I feel like I’m proud to say the Cup regulars are holding their own.”
But even when armed with a fast car, a driver still needs to maximize it to its potential. And it would appear that Bowyer can certainly do that with a stock car on a road course, even if he’s been a little surprised by that at times – like when he took part in a test session at Virginia International Raceway a couple of years back.
“Several of what we would call ringers were there and I was every bit as fast as them, if not faster and I was like, ‘What the hell is going on? I think this car is extremely fast because I know I’m not,'” Bowyer recalled.
“Then I came out here [to Sonoma] and it was still the same thing. After practice, I had a pretty good feeling and I needed to get a good night’s rest because I had a pretty good shot at it.”
Ever since he finished 16th in his inaugural race at Sonoma, Bowyer has remained relatively stout there with four Top-5 and five Top-10 finishes in his last six starts – the only blemish being a 31st place finish in 2010.
He’ll start fifth in tomorrow’s race.
Lewis Hamilton has ruled out a future appearance in the Indianapolis 500, saying he has “no real plans” to do any serious racing once his time in Formula 1 is over.
Former teammate and current McLaren driver Fernando Alonso took part in the 101st running of the Indy 500 in May, qualifying fifth and running high up the order before retiring late on with an engine issue.
The F1-to-IndyCar crossover proved to be one of the biggest motorsport stories of the year, and has stirred the imagination of other drivers to make a similar step into other events in the future, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans which is known to be on Alonso’s radar as well as that of Haas racer Romain Grosjean.
Three-time F1 world champion Hamilton admired 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato’s victory ring when on the podium at the Japanese Grand Prix earlier this month, trying it on and joking it may spur him to enter the race to try and win the jewelry.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, Hamilton stressed he made the comment in jest, saying he holds not interest in entering the ‘500.
“Honestly it hasn’t inspired me to do the Indy 500,” Hamilton said.
“I’ve always respected it and appreciated it. I got to watch part of it when Fernando did it which I thought was super exciting. I love the idea of drivers being able to do more than one series.
“Just the other day I got to drive an F1 car on an oval circuit which was interesting. I have a huge amount of respect for those drivers as it is quite scary approaching those banks at the speeds that they do.
“I personally don’t have a desire to drive it. Maybe one day I will go out and have some fun.
“I have a lot of opportunities to do those kinds of things, but no real plans to do anything serious.”
Hamilton has previously said he would like to try a NASCAR race for fun one day, but has made clear his plan after his F1 career is over is to distance himself from racing in order to pursue other interests.