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.