Just as Clint Bowyer likes to sit in a deer stand and stalk his prey, the media hunted the Michael Waltrip Racing driver on Friday.
Bowyer proved to be elusive, though. Apparently he's gained some techniques while watching all those deer.
A group of a half-dozen or so NASCAR beat writers wanted to chat with Bowyer to find out how he felt about the Phoenix incident a week ago and gauge his reaction to Jeff Gordon's comments earlier Friday (Gordon said he didn't mean to wreck him).
But Bowyer didn't appear on the NASCAR interview schedule – apparently he declined – and his always-friendly public relations representative Ryan Barry said the driver simply didn't want to discuss Phoenix.
Everything was still too fresh, too raw. That tells you something about how mad Bowyer got over the whole thing.
But as a reporter, you can't just take the PR guy's word for it; you have to try to interview the driver, even if he says "No comment."
The reason is because sometimes the driver will decide to talk, even if the PR guy doesn't think it'll happen. Plus, "no comment" at least tells the readers you tried.
We all knew it was going to be tough to wrangle Bowyer after qualifying, because NASCAR was sending the drivers to the garage after their laps – unless they qualified in the top three. And if Bowyer drove to the garage, it would be easy for him to get away from the media and into his hauler very quickly.
I mean, did you see how fast he ran last week?
Anyway, they say reporters don't root for individual drivers – and we don't – but we sure were pulling for Bowyer to qualify in the provisional top three so he'd get stopped on pit road.
And guess what? He did. Thanks, Clint! Now it would be a lot harder for him to get away without comment.
He parked his car, got out and started talking to his crew. His eyes darted in our direction a few times, but he showed no sign of coming over for an interview.
We watched and waited.
Then, as he chatted with three or four guys from his No. 15 team, he suddenly started walking toward the garage without warning. It was like the deer who stops eating grass and makes a dash across the open meadow.
The chase was on! But unlike last week's garage dash, this was more like one of those slow pursuits, like the cops chasing O.J. Simpson.
He was walking slowly enough for even a slowpoke like me to catch up, and I was the first to reach him.
It was an opportunity for the ol' walk-and-talk, so I started asking a question.
"What did you think about..." I said before he cut me off.
"Aw, I don't really want to talk about it," he said.
Hmm. Maybe an icebreaker would help?
"But you're famous now," I prodded. "Your run was all over. You're like the Forrest Gump of NASCAR."
He laughed, and by then, the other reporters had caught up to assist.
"Usain Bolt!" Associated Press reporter Jenna Fryer offered helpfully.
"I don't even know who Hussein Bolt is," Bowyer said.
"Come on, yes you do," Fryer said. "He's the fastest man in the world!"
"And I beat him?" Bowyer asked, deadpan.
"You beat him!" she said. "You're way faster."
"I did?" Bowyer said. "How much faster? Tenths? Half-seconds?"
With Bowyer at least speaking words other than something an angry Busch brother might say, it was time to try again. ESPN.com's David Newton went for it.
"You heard Jeff's explanation today," Newton said. "What did you think of that?"
Barry, the PR guy, made eye contact with Bowyer as he walked and shook his head to indicate the driver shouldn't answer.
Bowyer said he didn't know. Then FoxSports.com's Lee Spencer gave it a go.
"How long is it going to take you to get over last weekend?" she said.
"Oh, I don't know that either," Bowyer said. "It'll be awhile."
Spencer persisted and pointed out to Bowyer he's not usually a guy who gets into feuds.
"I'm not usually a guy who causes any trouble, either," Bowyer said.
At that point, Bowyer was almost at his hauler. He turned and walked in between tires – which boxed out about half the group, including me. I didn't get to hear the last question and answer (if there was one), but I have a feeling he didn't say much.
The hunt was over. The deer had disappeared back into the woods. But at least we tried.
UPDATE: I was wrong. FoxSports.com's Lee Spencer stayed in the deer stand a little longer than I did and came up with this story after talking to Bowyer.