Clint Bowyer Will Save the Celebration until he Wins

Clint Bowyer, driver of the #14 Rush Truck Centers Ford, gets into his car during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 25, 2017 in Fontana, California. Photo – Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Even though he had just posted his best Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series finish since 2015, Clint Bowyer didn’t expect effusive praise from the driver he succeeded in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

So when Bowyer pulled on to pit road at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday after running third behind race winner Kyle Larson and runner-up Brad Keselowski in the Auto Club 400, Tony Stewart’s reaction, as a car owner, was predictably restrained.

“Good job,” Stewart said to his driver.

Bowyer hadn’t expected anything more.

“Tony wins a lot of races,” Bowyer elaborated. “He’s won a lot of races. Anything less than a win, you know…  he expects that. And I love that about Tony. “Obviously, I know he’s proud. He was happy with that. But that’s what you want in an owner. You know what I mean? To have that instilled in everything, in your DNA, I mean, this is the way I was raised.

“Anything else but a win is a bad day. You are miserable with anything less than that. It’s just the way we’re wired as a race car driver from five years old and on. The problem is, is everybody else on that race track is wired the same way. So there’s really only one guy happy, and everybody else is pissed at the end of the day. That’s what it boils down to.”

In his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing, and back in top-of-the-line equipment, Bowyer earned his best result since June 2015 at Sonoma, where he also ran third.

But to get a bona fide celebration, he knows he’ll have to improve two positions.