Just minutes after his hometown Kansas City Chiefs were eliminated from the NFL Playoffs, Clint Bowyer sent this tweet.
— Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) January 21, 2019
NASCAR is coming. Giddy up.
Bowyer’s tweet was enough to get us all jacked up for Daytona – which, remarkably, is just a few short weeks away – so just imagine how anxious he is to get going, heading into such an exciting time for the sport and Stewart-Haas Racing as an organization.
Coming off arguably the best overall season in SHR’s history in which Bowyer put his career back on track after several meandering years, the team’s trajectory continues to point upward. Ford will debut a brand-new Mustang in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series after several years of running the Fusion, and the team recently announced the signing of a promising, young talent in driver Daniel Suarez.
SHR was the only organization to place all four of its drivers inside the Round of 8, with Kevin Harvick coming up just short of the title at Miami. The banner year set the bar high, but don’t assume a new rules package and body will be add any sort of wrinkle to start the season.
“There ain’t no wrinkles in a Ford Mustang, boy,” Bowyer told NASCAR.com Wednesday afternoon. “It’s a damn Mustang.”
Well, there you have it.
PHOTOS: New 2019 Ford Mustang
As for the 2019 rules package – something all manufacturers will be working with, not just Ford – the excitement is there, but the crystal ball is foggy.
“To be dead honest with you, generally speaking, I don’t know what to expect,” Bowyer said on a Wednesday conference call. “I don’t think anybody can expect too much right now or know what to expect. I’m going to a test in Vegas out here next week. I’m looking forward to going out there and getting, I guess, that idea of the expectations going into the season under my belt, firsthand.
“This is a drastic rule change. The face of our sport is going to be different. Time will tell what opinions are made, and certainly I’ll form my opinion when that time comes. Testing is one thing. It’ll be, what, 14, 15 cars out there next week? When you get out there with 40 nut jobs, it’s a whole different story.”
Bowyer will represent SHR when drivers test Las Vegas Motor Speedway next weekend. He’ll join former teammate Kurt Busch, who opened the seat for Suarez after a move to Chip Ganassi Racing, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, David Ragan, Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Preece, Bubba Wallace, Paul Menard, Ty Dillon, Ross Chastain, Landon Cassill, Drew Herring. Cody Ware, Noah Gragson, Riley Herbst, Zane Smith and Chase Briscoe.
Suarez participated in a smaller test earlier this month at Auto Club Speedway, so SHR has a bit of data already.
With that many drivers and cars taking to the track in Vegas, it should offer a glimpse into what we’ll see with the package once the series breaks it out in full form post-Daytona.
“Looking forward to the test next week, as I said, but definitely looking forward to once you get out of Daytona 500 — Daytona is always going to be Daytona,” said the two-time 2018 winner. “Daytona and Talladega are always going to be restrictor-plate tracks. Time will tell whether these other mile-and-a-halves become restrictor-plate tracks.”
As far as his new teammate, Bowyer admits he “didn’t have much of an opportunity to get to know (him) a lot” prior to now, the veteran sees big things on the horizon for the 27-year-old – and the energetic, affable driver may have actually found someone that, shockingly, he can’t keep up with.
“I always thought I was excited and got excited in conversations. People have told me slow down. I had to say, ‘hey, Daniel, slow down, I’m way too country for all this’,” Bowyer said about a recent trip to Texas for Mobil 1 in which they “talked for six hours roundtrip.”
It’s invigorating to be around, it seems.
“Man, it’s fun to be around kids like that that are full of talent; full of piss and vinegar,” Bowyer said. “He’s set on kill. He’s excited about his opportunity, as he should be. He’s in good equipment. I know the equipment he’s going to be sitting in; the team that he’s going to be with. They were on fire last year with (crew chief) Billy Scott and all those guys. He’s got a good future ahead of him for this year. I’m excited for him.”
After altering its driver lineup for the third straight year, it’s beginning to feel as if SHR could ride with the current stable – Bowyer, Harvick, Suarez and last year’s breakout Aric Almirola – for years to come.
Four strong in strong Fords.
“The strength comes with numbers in our sport, and having four cars is such a powerful thing; the difference that Aric Almirola brought in and making that fourth car real … ” he continued. “And what I mean by that is as you’re going through practice sessions, as you’re going through changes and decisions and making those decisions with the setup one way or another, to be able to have the confidence in what he’s saying and the lap times to back it up gives you a lot of confidence in a decision to go that way if that opportunity is there, and certainly that opportunity is going to be there having Daniel in that fourth car just like it was with Kurt in it or anybody else.
“It’s important for all of us to get Daniel caught up and up to speed on everything, and we’ll all benefit from that; Kevin, myself, Aric, everybody at Stewart-Haas will benefit on him being up to speed as soon as possible.”
The sooner that happens, the sooner SHR will resume its dominance, and it could be as soon as Daytona.