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Let’s hear from our race-winning team from tonight’s 53rd annual Bank of America 500, and our race was won by Clint Bowyer. He drives the No. 15 5-hour Energy Benefiting Avon Foundation For Women Toyota, and congratulations, Clint. He’s joined by owner up here Michael Waltrip, crew chief Brian Pattie. This is Clint’s eighth win in his Sprint Cup Series career, his third win in 2012, and his first win here at Charlotte.
Q. Talk about the win tonight.
CLINT BOWYER: You know, first and foremost, this is my worst racetrack. To be able to come here and compete and have cars capable of qualifying in the top 5 and racing up front, I mean, that’s – man, I’m telling you, that means a lot to me. I think it speaks volumes to our team, Brian Pattie, everybody that he’s assembled around me from the get-go. It’s truly – it makes you almost giddy. It’s so much fun to come to the racetrack knowing you’ve got cars that are capable of getting the job done, you’ve just got to figure out how to make it work.
Who would have thought in a million years after making this switch and coming over to a new family and everything that was new that we would be in victory lane three times and still – how many races, five races left? Yeah, I’ve been paying a lot of attention. Five races left, and we’re still in contention for a championship. Our first year together, just to be able to do that with a brand-new sponsor, a brand-new manufacturer, I’m telling you the truth: I was almost uncomfortable going to the shop at the beginning of the year because I didn’t know one face there. I knew Ty Norris and Brian Pattie and Michael, you were there sometimes, and if I could catch him when he was there I could talk, but other than that I didn’t know anybody there. To walk into a new family and to be able to have the success we’re having, having the teammates – Truex and I had a lot of fun back in the Nationwide days racing for championships and had a lot of fun back in the day, but Mark Martin, having him for a teammate, it’s just a class act. You know Mark Martin, if he can’t win the race, he’s going to do everything he can do to help you win the race, to be in victory lane and come and congratulate us, it’s an unbelievable opportunity.
Toyota, new manufacturer. When we – I’ll just be honest: At the beginning of the year I heard a lot of things, a lot of rumors about the engines, the engines, the engines. Let me tell you something, in a short amount of time, from the beginning of the year until right now they’ve slowly and steadily become the best engine program in the sport. Just proud of everything and proud of the engineers and everybody that’s been a part of it.
Q: Brian Pattie, talk about some of the things that you had to do this weekend to get that car where it was tonight.
BRIAN PATTIE: Well, we had a good baseline from the spring, qualified fifth in the spring, so qualified fourth this time, so it worked out well. We’ve evolved our setups over the summer, and in going to these tracks for the second time, it definitely helps with the notes. But tonight just – the car was just too tight, front tire was off too fast, and even in practice when my spotter joked about saving fuel we weren’t really fast. It’s kind of funny that it worked out, we were saving fuel and win it on gas mileage, and ran really good the last two stints.
Q: Michael Waltrip, talk about the significance of this win tonight in Charlotte, and Clint Bowyer right now has certainly moved himself into position to contend for this title.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: The thing that’s the most special to me about the win tonight is we have 160 people that work right up the road from here, and they spend so much time caressing and working on these cars and tuning them and getting them ready to go to the track and this was their home race. They got to come watch our car drive to victory lane. Very thankful for the fact that we were able to get to victory lane and our people are able to celebrate the victory.
I think a significant part of this victory, and I want to just echo Clint’s sentiments, not only did the Toyota engine run with as much power as we needed to win with, we got the fuel mileage we needed to win with, we had just enough gas to do one of the most amazing starts to a burnout I ever saw. It really went kind of downhill from there.
But to have an engine under your hood that can perform like it did qualifying in the top 5 with a new track record speed, have that kind of speed and then also have the economy that it takes to race to the checker and not have to pit late, I think a lot of people need to look at what our manufacturer has done for our organization.
You know, Clint has won three races, and he hadn’t been able to drive to victory lane yet because of getting there with just enough fuel. And that speaks volumes to what Toyota does. But then also, a guy like Brian Pattie has to sit on that box and make those calls that gets that car just across the start-finish line, and if you miss it a little bit, instead of winning you’re an asshole.
CLINT BOWYER: That was last week.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: So you’re not an asshole.
BRIAN PATTIE: I try not to be.
CLINT BOWYER: He was at least 20 minutes slow to victory lane. Were you puking?
BRIAN PATTIE: No, this is the third time that we’ve won and the third time we had to push it to victory lane.
CLINT BOWYER: He told me he were good to the end, so I went ahead and took off. It quit doing it my first rotation of a burnout, so we were pretty close.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: I stopped and congratulated Denny on a great run. And Denny said I got too much gas left. I waited too long to make my run, and I said no, you didn’t, you did perfect.
Q. For Clint and mostly for Brian, did you feel like you had to go for the win to get back in the Chase picture, whereas maybe in some ways that’s kind of an advantage over guys who maybe had to play more conservative because they were worried they had more to lose?
BRIAN PATTIE: Well, we went for trophies last week, too. It was the same deal. We were close on gas and we stayed out the last caution, and probably would have run out coming to the checkers there, too, if we wouldn’t have got in a wreck. We’re going for trophies. That’s the only way you’re going to beat the 2, the 48 and the 11. That mid-pack 4th, 5th and 6th in points were gapped a little bit from the leaders, so you had to do something special to get back into it, and this definitely helps.
CLINT BOWYER: I was pretty impressed with the tightrope in pre-race today. I was pretty impressed with that. I thought that was pretty cool.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Did you see, not only was he on that wire, he was walking straight uphill. Did you see him unclip? Naturally they played Free Falling. That was real nice, Tom Petty’s Free Falling as the guy is risking his life for our entertainment. What a good song to play as he’s 250 feet in the air.
BRIAN PATTIE: So yes, we’re going to go for trophies the next five weeks. Thanks.
Q. Clint, why is this your worst track, and how do you – did you have to do anything to try to –
CLINT BOWYER: Honestly, look at my stats. It’s horrible. I mean, even with the win I think it’s still my worst racetrack. It’s hard. It’s one of those racetracks where –
BRIAN PATTIE: Easy to over drive the corners.
CLINT BOWYER: Saving fuel really helps me because I back the corner up and the car rotates and it’s kind of like slapping you in the face, saying oh, this is how it’s supposed to feel. But I’m telling you, I wouldn’t have – I don’t think I would have won the race had I not moved up and tried to figure out that outside line. A couple times Jimmie was running me down, and I was like, I’m going to go up here, and the back the corner up and try to make the arc of the radius as big as possible, starting backing the corner up to get the thing to turn, and next thing you know doing so you’re going faster and saving gas.
Truly I think the run that won us the race wasn’t the last one, it was the run before that, the next to last run, where Brian went out and it was a gusty call to go out and stretch it as long as possible on the last run, and if we would have pitted one lap earlier I think we would have ran out of gas.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: It’s a classic Days of Thunder. On Thursday Clint said I’m going to run it my way, and then Brian, a k a Harry Hogg, said now we’re going to run it my way, and Clint learned a lot on Thursday. I know you guys have to write a story and I’ll be brief. You have to write a story about the race tonight. But if you get time on Tuesday or Wednesday and you just need to write something to make people pay you, I don’t know how it works, but Brett Griffin keeps, Mr. ADD here, so focused and so into what he’s doing. Brett was my spotter like in 2000 when he first showed up and I hadn’t heard from Brett in 10 years on the radio and he showed up and started spotting for us. He just makes Clint better – Clint is an amazing driver, but Brett helps him focus.
We have radios where Brian is able to talk to Brett, and Brian tells Brett what Brett needs to say to Clint. It’s an amazing coaching job. He’s an elite athlete, and he has some great coaching that goes on behind the scenes.
What I love about Clint is he listens to them, even though he’s this guy who can drive a car like very few people can. He takes all that information, and you’d like to tell him to leave him alone, I think, but he knows that it helps.
What a great team effort. Brett deserves a lot of credit.
Q. I know we kind of did this at Sonoma, but Brian, you got fired last year –
BRIAN PATTIE: We’ve got to go there again? That was a year ago.
Q. And Clint, you were kind of looking for a job, and Michael, you’ve had some ups and downs, and now Clint, you’re having a career best year and Brian, you’re winning on ovals?
BRIAN PATTIE: Finally.
Q. And Michael, you had three cars in the top 10 tonight and Clint is back in the Chase race. Did any of you think it could get to this point in this first year together?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: I’ll start first. I’ll be honest, I don’t think Clint wanted to come drive for me, but he’s like, damn, I guess I got to. And he said, do you think he got cars I can win with? I said, I promise, we don’t yet, but we’re building them and they’re going to be great and you’re going to be happy.
CLINT BOWYER: He didn’t promise but Ty did. Ty promised.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: It was a leap of faith by Clint and a leap of faith by Brian. You know, the main guy that’s responsible – everybody always wants to say who deserves credit for the turnaround – or not the turnaround, we weren’t ever here. Who deserves credit for what’s happened at MWR. If you get right down to it Rob Kauffman deserves the credit because we went to Rob with a plan that cost a lot of money above budgets, a lot of money that I didn’t have. I live in an apartment above a pizza joint for gosh sakes. We told Rob we really felt like this plan would enable us to improve our cars so our drivers could go win races. And Rob endorsed the plan, said I want to win, I want to be up front, I want to be a contender, and it enabled us to build the cars that we have today that Clint is able to drive so wonderfully and Brian is able to make those calls.
So I think the main thing that happened at MWR was we came up with a plan and Rob said, I’ll fund that plan.
Q. You had three cars in the top 10.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Yeah, we built three of them. We built one for each guy. Heck, they even gave me one I almost won with. That tells you how good they are.
CLINT BOWYER: Adding to that, what Rob brings is a lot of business sense and making this sport make good business sense for our sponsors. Not only did we bring in new sponsor in 5-Hour Energy, we re-signed NAPA. We have Aaron’s. We have solid sponsorship throughout our organization, and Michael has done such a good job over the years keeping those. Now that the organization has got the performance side of it down, they truly are, I think, setting the standard for our sport of making business sense out of it.
BRIAN PATTIE: I don’t know how to answer that other than 12 months ago I was sitting in a hammock texting friends of mine at the racetrack when I was at home. It’s come a long ways. Got a great group of guys. My engineers are as good as they get. I don’t know, it’s really fun to show up at work on Mondays and be respected and glad you’re here, and I feel the same way.
Q. Clint, was going for fuel mileage kind of like walking a high wire?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, except I don’t think you can just run out halfway across the wire. I guess you could fall off. But we can just stop and not get across and have to camp out right there.
Just it’s risky, but you have to be able to do that, especially after the weekend we’ve had, after Talladega we had to be able to get back in the game, and more importantly, you’re not even almost – I don’t think you’re even focused on getting back in the championship hunt as much as you are just getting – you’re so worried about all the positive things that have happened all season long, good momentum, good confidence across the board with our team, with our organization. You have a setback where we all get wrecked at Talladega, it’s easy to get down and get bummed out. To be able to come back here and get all three cars back in the top 10, to win this race, really set the standard of getting on down the road and putting that behind us.
Q. For Clint and Brian, you were talking before the Chase started how you run well in the Chase because you feel like you go into it with no worries, no concerns. Halfway through the Chase it’s been a lot of focus on this being a three-man battle. Do you feel like you’re in a good position even though you’re 24 points back and you guys maybe can slip in here?
CLINT BOWYER: Man, at the end of the day we’re a hell of a lot better than we were leaving Talladega. It’s as simple as you can answer that question. Yes. To be back in victory lane, new life, new hope going into Kansas, there’s a lot of races left. There’s a couple short tracks, Kansas – nobody really knows what to expect there. It’s a repave. You know these cars that are running on these mile-and-a-halfs are going to be fast there, but you don’t know if somebody is going to stub their toe, if somebody is going to struggle if it comes down to fuel mileage. All’s it would have took for one of those three cars to be in the situation that I was in, stretch it out, run out of gas, that opens the door up for everybody.
You know, I looked at it last week and going into this week, I still thought if one of those guys were to stub a toe, if Brad stubbed his toe, it really opened the door for about eight of us right back into the championship hunt. With a win here, it definitely gave us new life and new hope.
BRIAN PATTIE: Well, I mean, it’s – 28 points is achievable over the next five weeks. It’s a lot better than 40 how we started the weekend. I don’t know, it’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of help, and we’re still fourth in points. There’s three guys you’ve got to pass, not only the points. We’ll go to Kansas on Wednesday and test like hell and try to pick up our program even more than we have now because we weren’t the fastest car tonight, we just had some strategy. It would be nice to win one of these things and actually drive to victory lane.
Q. This is for Brian: Clint has got a pretty strong-willed personality and you’ve got a pretty strong-willed personality. How long did it take you guys to gel, and when it comes down to an argument are you more of a cheerleader, coach, boss?
BRIAN PATTIE: Actually I think the first phone call was fun, right? Eldora, yeah. We weren’t even working together yet and we were talking in Eldora. That was last June. So the relationship has been great since actually before we started working together.
But I don’t know, I just do whatever it takes to get trophies. The team at the shop, the 160 or 200 people that we have working deserve trophies and free bagels on Tuesdays from Sprint. I just like to see the people’s faces at the shop when we show up there with a trophy. It means a lot, so that’s what we focus on here the last five races.
Q. People are going to say this was a fuel-mileage race, but a fuel-mileage race is when everybody else runs out and everybody has to pit. You didn’t just have to have enough fuel, you had to hold off a guy closing in. How much of a cooperative arrangement – how much did Brett Griffin have to do with it, Brian Pattie, you? How does that work?
CLINT BOWYER: At the end of the day it’s a total team effort. It takes everybody. It takes a crew, a gas guy to get all the gas in on the pit stop. That’s crucial. That’s first and foremost. You’ve got to make sure that you get all the gas in it.
Brian has got to make that gutsy call, and I’ve got to do my job of saving as much gas as I can when I can. You know, and then Brett keeping me calm, I’m a little bit of a lunatic out there, so –
BRIAN PATTIE: No.
CLINT BOWYER: To be able to have a spotter – Brett is just a good friend, and he knows me – having somebody close to you I think is about as much importance as being able to say a car is inside or outside of you. Surely anybody can say, hey, there’s an automobile on the inside of you and there’s one on the outside of you. Having somebody that knows you, knows your characteristics, knows what you’re going through, your demeanor, how to pick you up when you’re down, how to calm you down when you’re excited, I mean, that’s – he tells me to get out of the mirror a lot. Having that relationship with somebody really helps you to stay on task and stay focused. It’s just a total team effort. Making the decisions, what it takes, the engine kept and being able to give us the fuel mileage and the horsepower to get it done, it’s endless. It’s not just me, it’s not just Brian’s call, it’s everybody. It’s a team effort.
Q. For Michael, you guys – you’re the last of what was Toyota’s freshman class when they debuted in 2007. You’ve overcome your own obstacles to be here today, but do you take any special satisfaction in the fact that you’ve been able to at this point be in contention for a championship and you’re the last group that brought them back into the Cup Series?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Certainly. It means the world to me because they came to me back in ’05 and said we’re going to go Cup racing in ’07 and we want you to be an owner, and we were racing Nationwide cars from behind my house. But they thought I could be a good owner for them, and I invested everything I had and everything that they would loan me – which by the way they’ll loan you a lot more than you think they will. We were able to survive.
And now with the relationship that TRD, MWR and Joe Gibbs Racing has together, it’s enabled us to really have the equipment and the engines and the technology we need to go race against the top teams, and Rob legitimized MWR on the finance side by giving us the foundation we needed to buy equipment, machinery, hire people, get drivers like Clint and Mark Martin and crew chiefs like Brian Pattie.
But very, very happy that they believed in me in ’05. We started racing in ’07 and here we are in ’12 racing for a championship.
There’s a few things that have happened to me over my racing career that are really special to me, and this relationship is one of those.
Q. When you left pit road after your last stop, did you know without question you would not have to come back –
CLINT BOWYER: Oh, had them covered (Laughter.)
No, I knew there was a lot of racing left. Hey, that’s Chad Knaus. We outfoxed him. Any time you outfox him you know you’ve done a good job, especially at this racetrack.
Anyway, no, I didn’t. Never in a million years did I think that the caution wouldn’t come out, something. There was a lot of racing left. But I knew that we had the upper hand. If it come down to a fuel mileage race, we had track position, we knew we could make it to the end or we hoped that we could make it to the end. So we definitely had the upper hand, yes, when I come off of the pit lane and the cars that were with me in that bunch were still behind me. I mean, that was the most important thing.
BRIAN PATTIE: We were actually short when he left pit road. He didn’t know that. We were actually short.
Q. By how many?
CLINT BOWYER: A lap?
BRIAN PATTIE: We were a little bit.
CLINT BOWYER: About a burnout full. That’s how much we were short.
BRIAN PATTIE: But we’re not going to get him excited. We’ll let him race and see what happens.
Q. Brian, you guys are going to have so much testing and practice time at Kansas next week you can run all kinds of science experiments and whatever. Can the teams that are left in this sort of overthink themselves next week and try to do too much stuff?
BRIAN PATTIE: I hope Paul and Chad and those guys do, yeah, that would be great. We’ve got a good test plan. We’re taking the car we had at Chicago, ran top 10 there. This was a car we had at Atlanta. It was brand new. So we’ve got some really good cars coming. My engineers have some good stuff to try, so we’re going to test for Texas and Homestead, and got a brand new car coming to Martinsville. It’s time to get gritty. The next five will be fun.
Q. Clint, this is the third time you’ve gone to victory lane and the third time you’ve ended up walking to victory lane. Is this going to become a signature move for you?
CLINT BOWYER: Yes, I definitely hope to walk the next five weeks for sure. I need exercise after these races. I need all the exercise I can get. It’s fun to walk to victory lane. Let me tell you, that’s the best walk you could ever have. I think that’s my new trademark. I’ll walk home if it means victory lane.
Q. Clint and Brian, you’ve been together for nine months. How much better can you be? Do you feel like you’ve peaked or do you feel like you’re just starting and can be twice as good as what you are now?
CLINT BOWYER: Basically we’re just engaged right now. We’re not even married yet. The romance is good right now. When you get down to the marriage, we’ll see how it is. But enjoying the hell out of the engagement right now. Was that understandable?
BRIAN PATTIE: Yeah, and on the more technical side. The second times at the racetracks help a lot for the notes we’ve accomplished in the first set of races, leading into Daytona July 4th. First race was a struggle, and now we’re having fun.
Q. What’s it mean to go home and race in Kansas?
CLINT BOWYER: That’s probably the biggest thing is to come off this win, going into your hometown, the family and friends, everybody that goes there, it’s just so important to be able to roll in on a positive note. And to be able to win there some day, we’ve gotten close, if we could possibly pull this off again in Kansas, it would be – that’s my – do you dare say Daytona 500, but it truly is. That’s the biggest race you can possibly win is in front of your hometown. I know you’ve won the Daytona 500 twice. But winning at home — all right, so we went to the NCAA tournament and Kentucky beat my Jayhawks, and he wore this God-awful Kentucky sweatshirt tonight, and I told him if we win, please do not wear that, but then it was the coolest thing ever. So we’ve got to go.