Welcome back, Clint Bowyer. We missed you.
Bowyer had not won a race in nearly five and a half years, a span of 190 races. That’s a lifetime of sorts when it comes to the high-demand world of professional sports and great expectations.
Bowyer is a veteran wheelman who for the past year has been driving for a top team in Stewart-Haas Racing under the tutelage of a solid crew chief in Mike Bugarewicz.
So what was up?
“I haven’t won as many races as I needed to, but I’ve always been consistent, and that was always putting myself in position to have a shot at winning the championship at the end of the year,” Bowyer said after winning at Martinsville following a crazy and unexpected snow day on Sunday.
“I finished second (in 2012), had a lot of success in this sport, and being able to shine at the end of the year when the time is right for everybody involved, and over the last few years I haven’t been able to put all that together.”
Bowyer, 38, has always been one of the most engaging personalities in the NASCAR garage. That’s a precious commodity in a sport were corporate stuffiness has crossed paths with the traditional good ol’ boy business model.
Bowyer embraces NASCAR tradition, which includes a large chunk of family ties. That’s what made the moment so special for him in Martinsville.
Bowyer had never experienced the thrill of sharing a victory with his son, Cash, now 3 years old.
“A lot of people want to think about these kids as being a distraction to drivers and to athletes. Hell, we ain’t athletes; we’ve got power steering and things like that,” Bowyer said. “You start to think about what really matters in life, and the one thing that I didn’t want him to go through life with is not to know what this was all about.
“So to be able to have him in Victory Lane and have his No. 1 in Victory Lane, that was pretty cool, wasn’t it?”
So was Bowyer’s first victory for SHR, the team he joined following Tony Stewart’s retirement.
“You know, I can’t say I wondered when, but I wanted us to break through,” Bugarewicz said. “I wanted it for the team, for the company. … This team has been through a lot over three years.”
As the laps turned and turned and added up without a victory, self-doubt kicked in, even as Bowyer finished second six times. That’s an agonizing distance between celebration and consternation.
“Yes, it was pretty dark for a few times,” Bowyer said.
Then the magic happened in Martinsville, defined by a father-and-son moment that will be remembered in NASCAR history.
Family first, as NASCAR traditionalists like to say, with an assist from power steering.
I don’t mean to bust on NASCAR’s kiddie corps. But despite all the hype they have received during the season, we’ve seen them basically flat-line in the early part of the Cup season.
Only Ryan Blaney (third) and Kyle Larson (ninth) are in the Top 10.
It’s understandable because there is always a learning curve in every sport. And things are likely to shake out more favorably as the season progresses because, if anything, they have strength in numbers after getting call-ups from the Xfinity and Camping World Series.
But the flip side is that no matter how good you are, a driver needs time in the seat and behind the wheel before they see results on the track.
Advantage, old guys.
NASCAR’s snowy weekend provided remarkable images as Martinsville Speedway turned into a winter wonderland.
For the record, the last time snow postponed a Cup race was in 1993 at Atlanta.
“Tower, we have lost the track!” Bubba Wallace tweeted as he posed for a picture inside the snowy confines.
Veteran NASCAR journalist Jeff Gluck tweeted a picture of a snowman holding a checkered flag outside the track.
Race officials had to postpone the Cup and Truck Series races until Monday after rain and light snow started falling Saturday afternoon. The bad weather continued into the evening, making it impossible to get the track cleared and dry in order to be race-ready by Sunday.
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