Have you ever wondered how NASCAR racers drive when they’re not speeding around a track at 200 mph or more? In Clint Bowyer’s case, shifting gears between racing and regular driving isn’t exactly easy.
“I don’t do very good in traffic. It’s terrible, you go way too slow,” Bowyer admits. The 38-year-old Kansan prefers competing against the best racers in the world. On Aug. 13, he’ll be gunning his Ford Fusion race car around the two-mile oval at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich. Bowyer has never won at MIS, but a victory would boost his chances of competing in NASCAR’s playoff races in the fall. He’s currently ranked 17th in the Monster Energy Cup standings, one place short of qualifying for the playoffs. He tells WDET’s Pat Batcheller he’s ready to go.
“We’re in the running for it,” Bowyer says. “And I think the way we’re running on the race track, we could win our way in (to the playoffs) and we could ‘point’ our way in as well.”
Drivers earn playoff points based on how they finish at each race. They also get credit for winning “stages” during a race. Bowyer enters the Pure Michigan 400 with 609 points. He has finished second three times in 2017, and placed fifth in his last race, Aug. 6 in Watkins Glen, New York. He says he likes the track at MIS, considered the fastest raceway on the circuit.
“You don’t go any faster than you do at Michigan,” Bowyer says. “It’s an extremely fast track since the repave (in 2012). Throttle-down time is a premium, and you are wide open around this place. And you feel it when you get into the corners, you’re ‘flat-hauling the mail’. And you put 40 cars out there, it gets pretty dicey.”
Bowyer is used to competing against the likes of Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, and Jeff Gordon, all of whom are NASCAR Cup winners. He says driving amid everyday traffic is challenging.
“In our world, you have a spotter on the roof, he’s got your back,” Bowyer says. He’s telling you what’s going on on the race track, keeping you out of trouble, and when there’s an accident ahead, he’s the guy. When you’re on the road, you don’t have that guy.”
While the typical commuter doesn’t have spotters to help them navigate through traffic, autonomous driving technology could do that job for them. Bowyer will have none of it.
“It’s just not going to happen,” he laughs. “You’re not going to have an autonomous vehicle, there’s no way!”
Bowyer, of course, knows that self-driving vehicles are coming. He just doesn’t like it.
“Whatever happened to the ‘69 Camaro with the open headers and a big (engine) block in it? We’re in Michigan! The muscle car capital of the world is right here.”
Click on the audio player to hear the conversation with Pat Batcheller.