Clint Bowyer is seeking back-to-back STP 500 wins Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver scored the first of two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins last season when he took the checkered flag in the Martinsville spring race. Bowyer had to wait an extra day to do so when a freak snowstorm postponed the race until Monday, but he wound up leading 215 laps on his way to the checkered flag.
The victory ended a 190-race winless drought that dated back to the fall Charlotte race in 2012 and set off an emotional Victory Lane celebration that included his young son Cash joining Bowyer.
"You know I make fun of these other drivers sometimes for having tears in Victory Lane, but I’ve got to admit that moment got to me," Bowyer said. "Cash is young enough that he had never been to Victory Lane before, so it was his first chance to be there. That’s something I always wanted to make happen."
Of course a Martinsville win also means an iconic Grandfather Clock trophy, which Bowyer has proudly displayed at his home.
"It’s right in the living room," Bowyer said. "First thing you see when you walk in. We did have to silence it from going off every hour. For a while it was kind of cool for it to wake you in the middle of the night and remind you that you won that race.
"But honestly, with two kids, you stop anything that will wake anyone up in the house. But given this is Martinsville week, we might just have it back going this week."
Bowyer is off to slow start this season and ended the West Coast swing on a frustrating note with an engine issue that led to a 38th-place finish. But he’s hoping to put all that disappointment behind this week with the year’s first short track race.
In addition to last year’s victory at the historic half-mile oval, he owns six top-five finishes and 15 top 10s in 26 starts there. Located just 90 minutes from his Mocksville, North Carolina home, he says the facility reminds him of the roots of the sport.
"Martinsville for me is my new home track," he said. "Everybody lives down in the Charlotte area. We live up north – Winston-Salem area. That’s my home track. That’s the one racetrack you drive back and forth on qualifying day, then go back up there for the race.
"Martinsville has such an old-school feel – even the two-lane road going up to it where you can’t ever get around anybody. You’re stuck in traffic and then you finally get on the open road. Then, you get a (speeding) ticket as soon as you get across the Virginia line. I had the same guy pull me over three years in a row. Finally, he gave me a ticket, which I deserved, and then you get to the racetrack. You’re pulling into these people’s backyards and here’s this awesome racetrack."