Bowyer ready for me­dia ca­reer

Cup vet­eran of 15 years near­ing his fi­nal laps

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Sports -

CHARLOTTE, N. C. — If Clint Bowyer could have scripted his send- off, it most cer­tainly would have been a proper blowout for NASCAR’s best partier.

Bowyer would have had fans and friends and cel­e­brated ev­ery week all along the NASCAR cir­cuit if he had had his way. He cer­tainly would not have cho­sen this year as his last, this sea­son of no spec­ta­tors in the stands, no rau­cous rev­el­ers roam­ing the in­field.

Bowyer is one of many caught in the cir­cum­stances of the pan­demic and pushed to make ca­reer- de­cid­ing choices. Hang around for an­other sea­son driv­ing race­cars, or make a jump to the tele­vi­sion booth?

He didn’t want 2020 to be his last sea­son, but the of­fer to join Fox Sports made for an easy split for Bowyer and Ste­wartHaas Rac­ing.

“I think you al­ways, every­body in life, wants to just get by with one more year. One more year, one more lap,” Bowyer said. “It’s 2020, right? Is it the per­fect time to do all of this? I don’t think 2020 is the per­fect time for any­thing.

“This op­por­tu­nity came up. It was an op­por­tu­nity of a life­time, an op­por­tu­nity to stay a part of this sport for many years to come.”

Bowyer could have pushed for a re­turn to the No. 14 Ford next sea­son if enough spon­sors agreed to back an­other year. But SHR re­ally needed Bowyer to free his seat so the team could give Chase Briscoe a much- earned pro­mo­tion from the Xfinity Series.

The of­fer from Fox Sports, where Bowyer had been moon­light­ing as a guest an­a­lyst, ended any other sce­nar­ios. Tak­ing the TV deal bought Bowyer a sec­ond ca­reer.

“Were we work­ing on what’s next as far as be­ing in a race car? Ab­so­lutely,” Bowyer said. “Once that [ Fox] op­por­tu­nity

came to the ta­ble, it was pretty clear that that’s what I needed to do.”

Af­ter 15 full sea­sons at NASCAR’s top level, Bowyer will get out of the car in four weeks. Bowyer will leave the sport a win­ner for Chevro­let, Ford and Toy­ota, a for­mer Xfinity Series cham­pion — a kid from Kansas who made it to the big leagues.

He an­nounced his plans last week with enough time to pre­pare for a send­off Sun­day at Kansas Speed­way. He grew up in Em­po­ria, just over an hour away from the speed­way, and he was a fan drink­ing beer atop an in­field mo­torhome when Jeff Gor­don won the first Cup race at Kansas in 2001.

Bowyer spent two months work­ing with Gor­don dur­ing the pan­demic as an an­a­lyst- slash- par­tic­i­pant in the iRac­ing broad­cast cov­er­age. Next year, they will be full- time team­mates in the tele­vi­sion booth.

“I was get­ting ready. I was get­ting close to be­ing ready,” Bowyer said of re­tire­ment. “Was I ready af­ter this pan­demic and this COVID year of no fans and a weird way to go out? No.

“But was I look­ing for that what’s next

mo­ment or op­por­tu­nity? That an­swer is ab­so­lutely yes. This pan­demic led to that op­por­tu­nity to get in the stu­dio.”

Fox Sports used just Mike Joy and Gor­don in a two- per­son booth this year af­ter Dar­rell Wal­trip’s re­tire­ment. The list of prob­a­ble tal­ent was deep and ranged from re­tir­ing crew chief Chad Knaus to cur­rent ti­tle con­tender Kevin Har­vick, who has proved to be an out­stand­ing guest an­a­lyst.

The pan­demic gave Bowyer weekly stu­dio time and his large and loud per­son­al­ity was full- throt­tle dur­ing the vir­tual rac­ing tele­casts. He’s good- na­tured and gre­gar­i­ous, a ver­sion of Wal­trip with the huck­ster, fan- ap­pre­ci­ated style.

Just like Wal­trip did for nearly two decades, Bowyer can now look to­ward a long fu­ture in NASCAR’s spot­light.

“I love be­ing a part of this sport. I mean, that was so im­por­tant for me. I didn’t want to just re­tire,” Bowyer said. “If this op­por­tu­nity with Fox didn’t come to the ta­ble, I was go­ing to be in a car some­where, some­how. I wasn’t go­ing to just quit and run off into the sun­set be­cause I like this sport and I wanted to find my way and a fu­ture within it.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Clint Bowyer said jump­ing from the driver’s seat to Fox Sports is the “op­por­tu­nity of a life­time.”

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