Clint Bowyer chuckles when asked about his first trip to Martinsville Speedway and replies in his usual candid manner.
“I hated it when I first came here. There is no other way to describe it: I sucked,” Bowyer told a gathering of media at Martinsville Speedway Tuesday, just three days before the STP 500 weekend begins.
“It was completely embarrassing the first couple of times I came here. This is a place you have to learn and you have to appreciate and hone your skills to get a good finish here. It’s one thing to go fast at this race track, but then you’ve got to do it 500 times. The first couple of times I came here, I couldn’t figure when to get out of it, I was driving into the corner too hard and made me go slower. Then I was picking up the gas too soon. It just takes time here.”
It didn’t take him long to figure out the difficult half-mile. He scored a ninth-place finish in his fourth start at Martinsville and seldom has been out of the top 10 since. In 18 starts, he has 12 top 10s and his last five starts he has finished seventh, ninth, third, second and fifth.
“This is a cool race track and we’ve come so close to getting that darned clock,” said Bowyer, referring to the traditional grandfather clock winner’s trophy.
“I even brought my ratchet straps the last time. I was going to get it in my truck. This is a track we can win at. It’s needed for us, my race team and Toyota.”
“Martinsville, she’s kind of a stand-alone event. To be good at Martinsville, it takes a different setup in your race car. It’s a track where as a driver you can get up on the wheel and make a difference in the race car,” said Bowyer.
Bowyer guaranteed that the STP 500 would be full of excitement, even from his seat.
“It’s really, really action-packed and not just for (the fans), but for us. I’m telling you the whole time you’re here, you are tip-toeing around and you’re on pins and needles because of the closeness of the action, no matter if it’s on pit road or on the race track or rolling out of the pits in practices.
“All of these things are so difficult to manage as a race-car driver in these tight confines and all the while you’ve got 42 other lunatics out there you are racing with.”