KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Ned Yost brought Clint Bowyer into the Kansas City Royals clubhouse, cleared out his office and sat down the NASCAR driver.
It was 20 minutes before his team would take the field for Game 1 of the 2014 World Series at Kauffman Stadium, and Yost had an important question.
“He says, ‘Level with me, who’s good this weekend?’ ” Bowyer recalled with a chuckle Friday at Kansas Speedway. “They had a NASCAR fantasy league going on with all the coaches, and he wanted the inside scoop. This was literally 20 minutes before Game 1 last year.
“He’s just a really neat guy to see when it’s an extreme element like that. He’s super calm and collected like you see on TV. I know they’ve chewed at least five cans of chew, it’s amazing to see how they’re all calm and collected and coaching these guys in one of the biggest games ever.”
Bowyer, an Emporia, Kan., native who unabashedly roots for the Royals and other Kansas City area teams, has built a strong friendship with Yost, who already had strong ties to NASCAR. As a coach with the Alanta Braves in the 1990s, Yost became close with the late Dale Earnhardt. During the 1994 baseball strike, Yost worked as a crew member for several races on the No. 3 Chevrolet as Earnhardt won his seventh and final championship.
The Kansas City manager has become nearly as tight with Bowyer, who planned to attend the first two games of the American League Championship Series through the graciousness of Yost.
“I didn’t have tickets, he texted me and now I have really good tickets,” he said.
It’s the second consecutive season that NASCAR’s second annual playoff visit to Kansas Speedway coincides with a playoff push by the area’s major-league team.
“Big weekend for all us Kansans and everybody in the Kansas City area,” Bowyer said. “This is such a neat weekend to see all this going down. There are a lot of big events. Selfishly, we pride ourselves on being one of the biggest here in Kansas Speedway. For me, having all the fellow racers, the crew guys and everyone look forward to coming to Kansas. It’s so funny to hear them say that, because my whole life, everyone has been like, ‘You live in Kansas? What?’
“Now everyone looks forward to coming to this racetrack and the area. Everything that’s happened because of this speedway, now adding the Royals to the list, all the hype and excitement surrounding the city is pretty cool to see.”