By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
After a year to forget in 2016, Clint Bowyer couldn’t stop smiling after the end of second race of the Can-Am Duels at Daytona.
The 37-year-old Kansas native took the wheel of the No. 14 Ford in his first race with Stewart-Haas Racing and drove to a runner-up finish, his best result since finishing third at Sonoma Raceway in 2015.
“Damn, this is fun again,” said Bowyer. “Man, what a rocket ship. Hats off to all these guys that put all this hard work into these cars for Ford.
“This is going to be a great year. This is fun. Mike and all the guys on the 14 car, it is just – it has been a long time coming. It is fun to get out here on one of my favorite race tracks and run up front.
Bowyer put in a stout performance, running consistently among the top five all night despite several battles with Ryan Blaney, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and eventual race winner Denny Hamlin. Having struggled last season in a one-off outing HScott Motorsports while waiting to pilot the car Tony Stewart occupied prior to retirement, Bowyer felt “good” to be running up front once again.
“We obviously want to win but I am super impressed with this team,” he continued. “This is the one we have been waiting for. Mike (Bugarewicz, crew chief) and all the guys put a lot of hard work into bringing a fast car and oh boy did they.
“It just creates more opportunities. You can play offense the whole time out there. That is the first chance I have had to practice the draft in this thing.”
The 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship runner-up, who will start fourth for Sunday’s Daytona 500, added that he still has some work to do while trying to get used to the SHR and Ford package.
“There are some new gremlins I need to work on with handling and driving characteristics that are adjustable for my likings but I am really proud and happy to be running like that.
“This is going to be a fun year.”