Maybe the 20th time is the charm.
That’s what Clint Bowyer is hoping this weekend as he heads back home for his latest start at Kansas Speedway.
Bowyer, in his 13th year of full-time Cup competition, has won nine times in his Cup career. But none of those victories have come in his 19 starts at the 1.5-mile track located roughly 110 miles northeast of his hometown of Emporia, Kansas.
“Kansas is obviously at the top of the list, right up there with a Daytona 500, of places I’d really like to get a victory at some point in my career,” Bowyer said in a press release. “I won’t complain no matter where we win our next race, but winning at Kansas would be extra special for a lot of people in the Bowyer family.”
Unfortunately, Bowyer can’t claim Kansas as being anywhere close to his best track.
In 19 starts, he has only two top fives. Those came in his second start in 2007 (second place) and in the spring 2013 race (fifth). Since the 2013 race he’s finished higher than 14th once, when he placed ninth in last season’s spring race.
He’s only led 51 lap at the track, 43 of those coming in his first start in 2006.
Fortunately, Bowyer has momentum on his side. In the five races since winning the March race at Martinsville – his first victory since 2012 – the Stewart-Haas Racing driver has three tops 10s and he finished second last Sunday at Dover after leading 40 laps.
But that runner-up finish is likely tainted after NASCAR discovered a L1 penalty on the No. 14 Ford. Bowyer’s car chief, Jerry Cook, was suspended for the next two points races for the violation and the team was docked 20 driver and owner points.
SHR said it is evaluating its options regarding an appeal.
After Dover, Bowyer credited improved communication at SHR with his increased performance this season, which has seen him earn three top fives through 11 races. He earned six in 2017.
At the 1.5-mile tracks visited so far this year, Bowyer has one top five (Atlanta, third), one top 10 (ninth, Texas) and an 18th-place finish at Las Vegas.
“I think the hardest thing at Kansas Speedway is getting the balance of your car figured out on the different lanes,” Bowyer said. “You ride around the bottom for qualifying and, in practice you kind of move up, then in the race you are all over the place. You need to be able to use all the lanes to pass.”
Bowyer said his No. 14 team will need to be “fast out of the box” to be successful this weekend.
“Everyone has to be on his game at a 1.5-mile track,” Bowyer said “We’ve done that well in 2018 and I expect it this weekend, as well.”