Just Drinkin’ in the Rain

Clint Bowyer celebrates his second victory of the season. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, June 11, 2018, 11:30 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

It’s almost never a positive when an automobile race falls short of the scheduled distance, but Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 (266) wasn’t without its tactical amusements. Clint Bowyer and crew chief Mike Bugarewicz played a two-tire pit strategy that put their Ford out front, and Bowyer managed to finagle the lead from teammate Kevin Harvick and hold it long enough to win.

Rain fell, but Mother Nature smiled. On rare occasions, plans work. Clean living and clean air.

Bowyer outdueled Kevin Harvick when it counted. Mother Nature was doing the counting. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

Hallelujah. The season has four multiple winners: Kevin Harvick 5, Kyle Busch 4, Martin Truex Jr. 2 and, now, the genial and irreverent Bowyer, the Driver Most Likely to Have a Beer with You. He’s from Kansas, the state most likely to produce characters in fiction who are friendly, wholesome and naive.

Aw, shucks, ma’am. It weren’t nothin.’

It was almost exactly worth the trouble of spelling Bugarewicz. It could be worse. He could be part of the keystone combo of Garciaparra to Bugarewicz to Kryzyzewski.

Fords haven’t enjoyed such a day since NASCAR banned the hemi, and Stewart Haas Racing led the Fords into battle with the exuberant clamor of a cattle drive. Haas’s Posse – Haas is Gene, and Stewart is Tony – finished 1-2-3 – Bowyer, Harvick and Kurt Busch – and the drag rider, Aric Almirola, finished 11th. Seven Ford drivers completed the unexpected finish in the top eight positions.

Kyle Busch (Toyota), Chase Elliott (Chevrolet) and Jamie McMurray (Chevrolet) finished fourth, ninth and 10th, respectively.

The winner greets NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

They were dancing in the streets of Dearborn, and Bowyer assured everyone interested that he would be drinking beer until the next time the cattle come home and the next drive heads off to Wine Country. Put Bowyer in victory lane, and he sounds like he’s ready to go howling at the moon with Pops Turner and Little Joe Weatherly.

Bowyer, who began the season winless since 2012, has won both times heading into idle weekends.

Coincidence? Don’t be ridiculous.

By gosh and gee whillikers, this is racing. How in the world could a man willing to strap himself into a machine designed for madness exert upon it his mastery and then not climb out from behind its digital dash without shorting it out with frosty fermentation?

Breathes there a man with soul so dead who never to himself has said …

Gimme a damned beer.

“See that sticker right there. It says I won.” (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

NASCAR needs racers like Clint Bowyer because it needs fans like Bowyer. If it rains in the campground, they play tackle football in the mud. If the race has to wait until Monday, they stay because they’re too hung over to go to work, anyway.

I’ve said many times – and as recently as last night on Facebook Live – that I wrote two racing novels in 2017 because I wanted to create a character who was a hybrid of old-time spirit and modern lifestyle. Perhaps I’ve been selling Bowyer short. I keep saying there are no drivers today who remind me of the ones who were everywhere – Dale Earnhardt, Harry Gant, Sterling Marlin, Rusty Wallace, Dick Trickle, etc. – in the 1990s.

Maybe Bowyer’s that guy. Maybe he doesn’t need any “branding” because he’s got one, natural born.

Thing is, as I write these words, I haven’t had a drop. Last brew I quaffed was at the Mexican joint on Friday night, and I just had one – okay, a very large one – before I came home to watch Johnny Sauter win the Truck race.

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(Cover design by Steven Novak)

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About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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