NASCAR Cup Series veteran Clint Bowyer is on a new career path, having traded his helmet and gloves for a microphone as an analyst in the broadcast booth for FOX NASCAR.
Bowyer, who is anchoring FOX’s on-air coverage of the season’s first half with veteran broadcasters Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon, sat down with NASCAR Pole Position to discuss why he’s excited about his new role, the challenges that come with it, and what he believes he can bring to the FOX NASCAR team.
BY JOSEPH WOLKIN, @JoeWolkin
I don’t know. It’s a great question, and it’s actually probably the right timing now to ask the question again. Obviously, it was an easier decision then – at the end of the season, everybody’s wore out and tired and kind of ready for something new, anyway. … To be honest with you, I was busier this year than I’ve ever been in my life leading into a race season.
I hate to say this, but being a race car driver was a pretty good gig – especially with the COVID stuff last year. You would show up on Sundays and let ’er rip for a day. The broadcast side of it, let me tell you something: There’s way more planning and stuff involved. … As a competitor, you’re always looking for a challenge, and this is a steep learning curve. This isn’t something that you can take lightly and roll in and think, “Well, just because I’ve done a couple of good interviews over the years, I’m going to be good at this.”
That’s not the case. It’s going to take work and a lot of patience and trial and error, and I think we can have a lot of fun with it as well.
Well, when you see the preparation, the depths that an organization like FOX goes to, and the confidence that they’ve instilled in me, that’s what kind of opened my eyes. When I was watching the NFL conference championship games and looked over and there was the commercial that Jeff (Gordon) and I did together promoting the Daytona 500, that’s a big deal. That was a big presence for our sport, which I’m proud of, but also for me and my new endeavor and job. That was huge.
You’ve got to work hard at this. This doesn’t all come naturally; I can promise you that.
I definitely think that was all in preparation, but at the time, I didn’t know it. But that was all tryouts. I don’t think they planned it that way, and I don’t think I would have ever dreamed in a million years that that was going to be my future. I didn’t know what that next thing was going to be, but I honestly didn’t think it would be TV.
That being said, it was definitely great tryouts for me; it got my feet wet a little bit and really kind of got me comfortable. This is a different thing. It’s not for everybody. Getting in those booths and being up there, it’s lights, camera, action; you’ve got to be “on” and you’ve got to know what you’re talking about. … Fans aren’t dumb; they can sort through the B.S. quickly and put you on the spot very rapidly, and you’ve got to be able to know what you’re talking about and still have fun. That’s what I want to bring to it.”
Oh, no, we’re from two different generations. Don’t even start that (laughing). You can’t put him down in my generation! He was one of my heroes. If he’s a childhood hero, that’s a different generation, right? … No, Jeff and I really enjoyed one another over the years. People don’t realize that, because of our run-ins a couple of times on the race track, but off the track – at year-end points celebrations or banquets – we would always kind of find each other.
Over the years, nine times out of 10 by the end of the night, you would look over and Jeff’s the one you’re hanging with. It’s kind of funny how it all happened and now here you are looking over your shoulder in the broadcast booth and one of the guys you enjoyed the most is the guy you will be calling these races with.
I think you’ve got to find that line, you know? It’s like in the old hot rod; you’re only as fast as you allow yourself to be, and you’ve got to find that edge and that line. To be successful in show business, you’ve got to be right on that edge. If you watch talk show guys, any place that’s successful in that line of work rides that line, and they know where it is and they don’t step over it.
It’s going to take me a little time to find that line. I don’t want to be a complete goofball, but I want this to be fun. Our sport is fun. There are a lot of fun characters within the sport, and sometimes that gets left behind.
It kind of goes back to that line I was talking about. … Sometimes you know the guys on the track are buddies with those guys in the broadcast booth, and the guys in the booth won’t call them out. I feel like that’s one thing that I have to do to be a good broadcaster. Hey, I’m a race car driver, I know when a guy makes a mistake and didn’t take a chance, maybe, or took too big of a chance.
I think I have a unique perspective where I can talk about some of that stuff. But I also think there’s a lot of things that go on during a race that the casual fan doesn’t know, and I don’t know why, but I’ve always been able to see things that other people sometimes don’t see. So, hopefully, I’ll be able to contribute in those ways.
Way different, way different. But, you know, it is, but it isn’t. You get in that car and make a mistake, it’s your ass on the line. But make no mistake about it: You get in that booth and make a mistake, and it’s still your ass on the line. You’re going to be hearing from your boss one way or another.
I guess that’s where the similarities are, but the difference is the pressure. When you’re on the race track, you get so many opportunities to make up for a mistake. If you make a mistake on the air, people are going to remember that. That’s the thing about fans and just society anymore; people don’t forget, and they get hung up on that one mistake. So, the pressure’s definitely on.
There’s a crazy number of stories. First and foremost, something that needed to happen for the better part of my career is going to new race tracks. When this sport really took off in the ’90s, look at the new race tracks, the new eyeballs that were watching races for the first time in their area at their race track. That’s happening again – finally.
We’re going to the Bristol dirt track, which is something no one’s ever seen. We’re going to COTA; that’s something that’s huge. As we go back to Nashville, these are huge, huge, huge. Starting the season off with the Busch Clash at the Daytona road course … just the willingness of NASCAR to be able to think outside the box and go for it is something that’s pretty uncharacteristic for them, since I’ve been in the sport.
I’m looking forward to these opportunities and looking forward to calling them in the booth, for sure.
Man, I don’t know. I think that’s what’s good about it. I can’t stay calm; you know what I mean? If it’s an intense situation, you can bet your butt I’m going to be wound up in that booth just like I would be in that race car. I think that’s hopefully where the magic is.”