For the last two seasons, we've brought you weekly NASCAR driver interviews that we like to call the "12 Questions." This year, we conclude the 2011 season with Clint Bowyer, who is wrapping up his tenure at Richard Childress Racing at Homestead.
SBN: Who is the most underrated driver in NASCAR?
CB: Aw, shit. Um...Jimmie Johnson (bursts into laughter).
SBN: You mean it?
CB: (Still laughing) No. Man, I don't know. I don't think there is a good answer to that, because it's all about the team, the people around you and getting the most out of those people, and I think that's what's making a good driver from a bad one right now.
SBN: What's a race in your career that you didn't win and it still bothers you because you didn't win it?
CB: Aw, man. I've thought two or three times I had a shot at the Daytona 500. Probably this year, though, it was the first Talladega. I lost by six inches and a win probably would have put me in that Chase. So that's a tough one.
SBN: If you could be on a four-car Sprint Cup Series team and pick your teammates – but you can't pick anyone currently at RCR or Michael Waltrip Racing – who would you pick?
CB: Aw, man. I mean, I would go with the wisdom. If I'm going to surround myself with teammates, I would want to surround myself with the wisest out there and the most experience. Jeff Gordon would probably be the highest on the list, and probably Jimmie and (Tony) Stewart. You know what I mean? These are guys who have been there and done that and battled it out.
SBN: Several people picked you as their ideal teammate this year because you're good but you're also fun to be around. What do you make of that?
CB: Eh. You gotta have fun, but I'm also a racer. This is the way I see it: I do have fun, I enjoy myself and I enjoy racing, but I'm a competitive person. The only time I truly enjoy it is when you're in Victory Lane and on your way home with a smile on your face.
SBN: When you were coming up through the ranks, who did you want to model yourself after?
CB: See, that's the thing – when I was growing up, it was always motocross. Jeff Ward was my hero – him and Rick Johnson. The shows they put on and the style they had, I just thought it was awesome, you know? It wasn't until I was probably 16 years old that I even started looking at car racing – and it was because my parents went to Talladega and were watching it from the infield. We weren't even watching it on TV, you know?
It's just weird how doors open in life. The door that's opened to this career...everybody always asks, 'What happened?' And the answer is I have no idea. Somebody wanted this to happen, and it just happened.
SBN: What's a memorable post-race escape you've made from the track to the airport after a race?
CB: Well, it was Nashville, and for whatever reason, we had a police escort. And I think this cop was trying to impress a bunch of race car drivers.
I remember there was two or three of us in line, and I remember being on the highway and my rental car is bouncing off the rev limiter as this cop is pulling away from us. I'm like, 'What!? Why the hell are we going so fast?' (Laughs)
We just need an escort for like getting out. That's all you really need. You're around these racetracks and the security personnel are part-time, they're told what to do and they don't know how to have discretion. They're just doing their job, you know? They don't know drivers from fans or anything else, and unfortunately, it's tough to escape these racetracks.
Once you get out of the track and get on the road, you're usually fine. But this guy took us all the way to the airport and it was the only time I've been in an escort where I was like, 'Just go on. I have no idea why we're going this fast!' Usually, I'm a thrill-seeker, but we're bobbing and weaving out of traffic and this thing is bouncing off the rev limiter, wide open, so I'm like, 'I'm done! This is stupid.' (Laughs again)
SBN: Who is somebody famous you'd like to meet who you haven't met yet?
CB: Oh man. Is Jennifer Anniston pregnant?
SBN: Um...I'll be honest, I'm not sure. I think she's got some boyfriend though.
CB: But is she pregnant? (Laughs hysterically)
SBN: Well, let's just say she's not (Editor's note: She's not). Would you like to meet her?
CB: I would definitely like to meet Jennifer Anniston. She's probably the hottest. She takes the top prize.
SBN: But don't you think she's maybe starting to get past her prime?
CB: I would say she's definitely still young at heart.
SBN: Ah, I see.
CB: Sorry, Lorra (Podsiadlo, girlfriend). You know, I have a girlfriend. You did say 'meet,' right?
SBN: Yes, meet.
CB: OK, right.
SBN: Right. Anyway, there were two types of seasons last year – Jamie McMurray won some huge races but missed the Chase; Jeff Gordon didn't win any races but contended for awhile in the Chase. Which type of year would you rather have?
CB: Well, I can tell you not being part of the Chase and winning a race – the situation I'm in this year – I'd much rather be a part of that Chase. I'd rather be part of that elite crowd chasing a championship than to be in the situation I'm in right now.
SBN: Where does your motivation to win come from? Why do you want to win so bad?
CB: Because that's why we do this. You don't come to just show up and be part of the crowd. You're here to win the race and be the man. That's why everybody races. That's why the crew guys are here, that's why we do this. You're a racer at heart, your competitive nature brings you to this arena and it's not satisfying unless you're having success. It's miserable.
SBN: How much does your personality differ from standing here talking to when you're in the car racing?
CB: You know, probably not much. I think it's probably a lot of the same. So not a whole lot. People that know me, they understand that I'm pretty wild in and out of the car.
SBN: If you could switch lives with an athlete from a different sport, who would you want to be?
CB: A golfer! Definitely a golfer. You know, people think it would be cool to be a football player. Why in the hell...? Can you imagine? It'd be like hitting a wall every five minutes! I'd get hit by a 300-pound linebacker or something and I'd be done: 'Time out. Is this guaranteed pay? I think I'm dead.'
But a golfer, it looks to me like it could be a lot of fun...(starts laughing)...until it gets...(keeps laughing)...out of control (still laughing, clapping hands because he's laughing so hard).
SBN: If you could take a year away from NASCAR and go do whatever you wanted, then come back knowing you had a guaranteed ride, would you ever want to do that?
CB: Nooo...nononono. No. Absolutely not. You would get rusty, you'd get stale. If someone took a year off, I don't think he could come back and be as sharp as he once was. I think he'd just get behind. I think that's what probably helps us with job security in this sport – we do this every week; this is what we do. It's so hard for somebody to come in and catch up.
Because of the no-testing policies, because of the lack of funding, you can't develop a young driver the way you used to – the way I got a chance. I think it's good for a lot of the people in this sport – there's pretty good job security right now.
SBN: When you eventually quit racing, what do you want your retirement story to say about you?
CB: Oh, you know, just that I gave as much to the sport as I got out of it. That's as fair as you can say. Obviously, you've got to win races and championships to be a name that isn't forgotten in this sport. Until you do that, you've just got to keep digging.
SBN: Let's say you're going to win the championship next year. You can wrap it up after Phoenix or clinch it off Turn 4 of the last lap of the season. Which would you rather do?
CB: Oh! I would much rather not go to Homestead with that pressure on me.
SBN: You wouldn't want to?
CB: No...no. No.
SBN: See, I always pictured you as the guy who would want to win the title while crossing the finish line upside-down on your roof or something.
CB: Helllll no! Can you imagine the pressure? I'd want to be the guy down in Miami a week early, on a week-long bender. We're going to have a hell of a party! Like Aerosmith.
SBN: Awesome. Can all of the readers come?
CB: Everyone's invited!