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Clint Bowyer is not a good note-taker. He openly admits this. Even when he took comprehensive notes in preparation to cover the Daytona 500, Bowyer said he forgot them all in his motorhome in his excitement for his season debut as an analyst for NASCAR’s race coverage on FOX.
He does Zoom production meetings by phone, so he’s able to stay mobile, and because he doesn’t own a laptop.
“I’m pretty much out of control on Zooms,” Bowyer said.
The same energy that carried him into a race car going 200 miles per hour as a full-time Cup driver for 15 years is spilling over into his newest role in the broadcast booth and onto the screens of millions as the 41-year-old takes a career turn entertaining NASCAR fans with his helmet off.
Bowyer spoke with The Observer about life in booth, the moment he missed driving and whether his racing retirement is for real.
This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Alex Andrejev: When I was trying to get in touch with you, I asked if you preferred to do a phone or Zoom interview, forgetting how much you hate Zoom.
Clint Bowyer: Heck, I complained about it once and now you’ve just gotta roll with it, right? Everybody thinks you hate it so it’s like well, might as well just stay with it. They do suck though by the way. They’re so awkward.
AA: I was told you prefer not to use a laptop, so now I have to ask if you have something against laptops, too.
CB: I literally don’t even have a laptop.
CB: I have an iPad and an iPhone. That’s what I have. They all make fun of me on these Zoom calls every week. This week I was in a production Zoom on our standard Tuesdays at 11 o’clock and my phone went dead, and I had to run and get a charger. I laid it on the counter and the camera was staring at the ceiling and they’re all like, ‘What just happened? We lost Bowyer.’ I could hear them as I was running to the bedroom to get my charger. I ran back into the kitchen and was like, ‘I’m sorry. I had to plug my phone in.’ I’m pretty much out of control on Zooms.
AA: Is it hard not having a laptop for the production meetings?
CB: At the end of the day, it’s hard for me to sit still. Even in the booth, I’m pacing back and forth, walking, looking at the lap times, looking out the window at the race, looking at the monitor, just constantly moving and grooving. It’s tough for me to sit down for an hour-long Zoom so I use my phone so that way I can stay mobile if I need to.
AA: I want to talk more about this transition to the booth. What’s it been like? What have been the early challenges now that you’re doing it full-time?
CB: I think the first part is that I was lucky to get the opportunity to get in the booth to do those driver-only broadcasts that we did on Saturdays for the Xfinity Series. That helped me tremendously just getting comfortable, finding my way and understanding what the basic premises are. That helped me so much, and honestly that’s the reason I got the job. I didn’t know that was a job interview, and I don’t know that they were interviewing me for a job on their side of it. It just kind of worked. And then the iRacing broadcast worked. I had a lot of fun with Jeff (Gordon) and Mike Joy. And it just happened through those opportunities. A lot of life and a lot of my career has kind of been that way. A door opens and you blow through it, having no clue what’s going on and figure it out. Next thing you know, it landed me a job and, hopefully, I’ll be here for a while in my next career, so I’m fortunate to have that. In any sport with any athlete, you always wonder what’s next and again, it just kind of fell in my lap and happened. It wasn’t really planned, I don’t think, on their side or my side.
Now, you get to this year. I show up to the Daytona 500 and it’s like, whoa, wait a minute. I don’t want to start with our first race, the Daytona 500, the biggest race of the year. That’s so many millions of viewers (8.48 million viewers prior to the rain delay). The pre-race show is such a big production. Not gonna lie, I was nervous. I knew once I got to the booth, got in my wheelhouse and was talking from a racing perspective, I was good. But I had to get through this pre-race show. I had to do interviews and things I’ve never done before. Interviews! Starting there, holy cow, I’ve never interviewed anybody. I’ve always been the one answering questions and making it awkward for them on purpose because I got a kick out of it and thought it was funny. Well you can’t make it awkward when you’re the one doing the interview. My first job for this year was to interview Kyle Busch of all people, so I’m like, ‘Oh my god.’ We made it through that and he knew it was my first one and I told him beforehand, ‘Hey, you’ve gotta help me out here. I have no clue what I’m doing. I’m in the deep end with no life jacket and I’ve got to figure this out.’ Luckily we put enough stuff out there that our producer was able to piece it together and make it a good interview.
AA: What have you been learning and how different is this role?
CB: Here’s an example. You go through these production meetings and they’re talking A Blocks, B Blocks, C Blocks, 500s, 300s. I’m eyes wide open trying to listen to this, like what in the hell are you guys talking about. I’m making massive notes of everything and I know damn well I’m not a note-taker, but I’m looking over at Jeff and he’s taking notes. Jamie Little is over there with her massive notebook. Larry Mac’s in there taking notes, I’m in there like, ‘Oh boy. I’ll follow suit.’ I know it’s a waste of time because I know I’m not going to be able to focus on all these notes. I get out there to the pre-race show for the Daytona 500. I’m nervous. I’ve been looking through my notes. I think I’m ready, but I’m not really ready and I know I’m not ready, but screw it, we’re going for it. By the way, it’s live. By the way, it’s network TV. By the way, it’s massive attendance. People are gonna be watching, so here we go! I get out there, get on stage, look down. Guess what I don’t have. I don’t have Note 1. I took notes for three days and I left them all in the motorhome. Not one note. I get out there and I’m like, ‘Holy shit. What am I gonna do now?’ Here we go. Lights, camera, action. Chris Myers starts his deal with his awesome radio voice and TV persona and honestly we had fun with it ... But that’s my example of what I’m talking about with nerve-racking moments. I’m not a very good note-taker apparently because I didn’t even bring them anyway.
AA: Do you miss driving? Do you have moments where you’re watching races and wishing you were back in the car?
CB: I knew that there would be that moment. I knew that in the back of my mind. Jeff had told me that, and again, that moment was being up there watching the Daytona 500. We’re up there in that booth and I look over my shoulder and the guys are putting their helmets on, they’re buckling up, window nets are going up, they’re rolling out and I’m like, ‘What have I done? What am I doing? I don’t have a firesuit on. I’ve messed up bad.’ So that was my moment. But certainly when you see good, hard side-by-side or three-wide racing, that big, massive moment, yes it still gets my adrenaline going up in the booth, but it also puts you in that seat and makes you want to be behind the wheel.
AA: When you announced you were moving to the broadcast booth last year, it came around the same time as questions about where you’d be racing next and whether you’d return to Stewart-Haas. How did this opportunity with FOX play into those discussions?
CB: It all came together very fast. To be honest with you, I was fully down the road of working on partnerships, no different than I ever was at the end of a contract to put yourself back in the seat, but I was starting to have those conversations with myself and with my brother who runs my stuff — Chip — and my wife. I was starting to think about what’s next. And when all of that came together and I started doing the driver-only booth for Xfinity races and the iRacing opportunity came up during the pandemic, it just kind of organically painted that picture. And next thing you know, FOX started calling and it was like maybe. I don’t know, what does that look like? Next thing you know, an offer came across the table and I’m like without a doubt — I’m still in conversations with the teams trying to figure it out. In that moment, I was like, you know what, it’s time. If I’m questioning this stuff and it’s just getting harder and harder to put deals together, I was like, it’s time. Let’s do it. And I was ready and I pulled the trigger.
AA: Does this feel like a final racing retirement or is there a chance we’ll see you behind the wheel again?
CB: I’m only 41 years old, but the conversation you have to have with yourself is are you satisfied or are you OK with your career and your love of racing. Are you willing to hang the helmet up? And I had that conversation and I was. Do I still want to race something and would I? Hell yeah I would. I’m a race-car driver. I’m a racer. Since I was four years old, I’ve been racing something on two or four wheels. If it burnt gasoline, I was in. If it was the right opportunity in competitive equipment to run up front and compete for wins came across the table, I’d be a fool not to look at it.
AA: Any interest in team ownership?
CB: No. Hell no. Racing’s a hard business. Sports are a hard business. To be at the elite level that I was at, it takes countless hours. It’s not a 9-to-5 job. It is 24/7, 365 days a year, nonstop commitment to be where you want to be competition wise. I don’t want to do that. If I’m not in the car and not reaping that benefits of standing in Victory Lane as the guy, no, I don’t want to work that hard. There are other ways to make a living, and furthermore, I’ve been racing since I was four years old and I think this is a valid point. I’ve never done anything else. I’ve literally lived my whole life on weekends being at a racetrack. I kind of want to go see what the world has to offer before I’m gone. I think that’s a real thing. Do I love racing? Hell yes I love racing, but I also want to experience life and see other things before it’s all said and done.
AA: Previewing this weekend and month of NASCAR races, do you think we’ll continue to see different winners despite the upcoming intermediate tracks that might make things look more “normal”?
CB: Yeah, because that’s all we’ve seen! But I think you’ll start seeing things level out. I think the cream is always gonna rise to the top. I can say this: I don’t know that I could have picked a better year to start my broadcasting career because of everything new that’s going on. That being said, I don’t know if I picked the worst year to get out of the car, because for the last decade I’ve been wanting to go to new tracks and race in front of new eyeballs and a new crowd. Finally I had that opportunity this year, but if there was ever a year to be involved with the sport, it’s this year. There’s so much going on. The dirt track at Bristol, that’s new. Everyone’s excited and the ‘wow factor’ is going to be there. The road courses, going to COTA, everybody’s been wanting to go to that track. Texas is awesome. The culture is awesome. The racing fans are awesome down there and they’re going to be in for an awesome race when NASCAR rolls into town in Austin.
AA: What’s your advice for Tyler Reddick and Daniel Suárez when they do the booth for Xfinity races this year?
CB: It’s just fun. Have fun with it. Be yourself. That’s the wonderful thing about this idea and opportunity is it gives the viewers a chance to see drivers’ personalities that they may or may not have seen. Don’t be uptight as a driver and clam up. Get up there and have fun with it and tell the story from your perspective and how you see it. That’s another thing that’s fun. Something’s gonna happen on that track where you’ve got to call it like you see it and that’s an uncomfortable thing. Say it. If they don’t like it, they’re gonna tell you, but by all means, don’t shy away. Be yourself, have fun with it and enjoy the moment.