Daytona International Speedway
Clint Bowyer came to Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in 2017 and took over one of the most coveted rides in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – the No. 14 Ford. Bowyer replaced three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, who retired as a NASCAR driver at the end of 2016 to focus on his role as co-owner of SHR with industrialist Gene Haas.
Bowyer took advantage of his new opportunity, running up front to score three second-place finishes on his way to a year-end tally of six top-fives and 13 top-10s. His average finish of 15.5 was 11th-best among full-time drivers competing in 2017, and it left him just shy of a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs.
Bowyer was determined to better those numbers in 2018, and the native of Emporia, Kansas, did just that. A breakthrough win March 26 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway led to a second victory June 10 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. They were a part of nine top-fives and 16 top-10s – numbers that carried Bowyer into the penultimate round of the NASCAR Playoffs.
Bowyer was back, in terms of performance and notoriety. Emphatic proof came at Martinsville where Bowyer led twice for a race-high 215 laps en route to his first win in 190 races. The pictures and video of Bowyer’s young family running down the frontstretch to join him in victory lane, as well as the raucous celebration when they got there – one that carried over to the media center before turning into beer toasts with fans in the stands – were some of the sport’s social media highlights of the season.