Clint Bowyer insists he’s not looking past this NASCAR season to 2017.
He’s in a unique position, driving this season for one of the Sprint Cup series’ minnows – Mooresville-based HScott Motorsports –before heading off to Stewart-Haas Racing, where he will replace Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Chevy in 2017.
“I want to be able to come in here and help (team owner) Harry (Scott) build his company to where he wants it,” said Bowyer, who will start 18th in the first Can-Am Duel qualifying race Thursday at Daytona International Speedway. “To where it can stand on its own two feet and be a better place than what it was when I came. I think we can do that.”
It has been a tumultuous few years for Bowyer. He announced his departure from now-defunct Michael Waltrip Racing in 2015 before he had a ride with another team. He nonetheless made the Chase before being named to replace Stewart, who will retire as a Cup driver after this season.
Bowyer said he never considered replacing Stewart for this season after Stewart broke his back Jan. 31 in a dune-buggy accident. Brian Vickers is driving for Stewart, who is out indefinitely, at Daytona. No decision on a replacement for Stewart has been made, although Ty Dillon said this week that he has talked about it with SHR.
“How would you ever make that happen 12 days before the season, before you’re going to be racing at Daytona?” Bowyer said. “And furthermore, I wanted Tony to come back. I’m glad that he chose to come back. However many races that is, we need him here, and I want him to come back and get back to his running up front and winning ways.
“At the end of the day, we were hammering down over at Harry Scott, literally as far as I didn’t even have my seat mounted yet.”
HScott has alliances with SHR and Hendrick Motorsports, two of NASCAR’s most powerful teams. Bowyer said that can only help, although being at a smaller shop has taken some getting used to.
“It’s going to be all about using those resources and alliances,” Bowyer said. “If I can do that and get my foot in the door, be an asset to them, I think we can even get more in return. If we fail to be an asset to them, I think it’s going to be stagnant and we’re going to have to be doing things the hard way.
“(But) when you say that, there’s not the resources, the manpower that I’ve been accustomed to. Five-hundred employees at (Richard Childress Racing), 275, I think, at MWR. I think it’s 40 (at HScott). It’s definitely a huge difference between where I’ve been and even where I’m going next.”
▪ Michael Waltrip and Ryan Newman crashed during Wednesday’s second practice for Thursday’s qualifying races. Dillon’s car spilled oil in front of them, causing the wreck. Kyle Larson was caught in the accident and will have to use a backup car Thursday, as will Waltrip. Rookie Brian Scott had the fastest lap in the day’s final practice at 199.800.
Open-team driver Michael McDowell broke the 200-mph barrier and had the fastest car during the first practice. McDowell’s speed of 200.173 mph edged 2011 Daytona winner Trevor Bayne’s 199.916.
▪ Auto-Owners Insurance will be the primary sponsor for three Cup races for Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing.