DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Clint Bowyer slips into the TV production studio, sweat glistening on his forehead, sits down on a stool and waits for a high-definition camera to move toward his face.
It’s time for his closeup.
“I’m more like a 10-foot guy,” Bowyer quips.
No amount of makeup can hide this move. Bowyer is taking a huge step in front of the lens in 2020, signing on to help call nine NASCAR Xfinity Series races for Fox Sports. The funniest guy in the garage and one of the most interesting is essentially taking his stand-up routine from the local comedy club to the national stage.
He is filling the role previously held by 2014 Cup Series champion and Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick and hopes to bring a different vibe to living rooms across the country.
It also could serve as a launching pad for life after racing. The 40-year-old Bowyer signed a one-year extension with SHR last year, meaning he could be one of the next NASCAR regulars to exit stage left over the last five seasons, following Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick and Jimmie Johnson out the driver’s window.
“I honestly don’t know if I’m going to be good at it,” Bowyer said this week. “But this is a good opportunity to see. Who knows? I might be horrible at it. But we’re going to have fun with it and I’ll have the same approach I’ve had with this deal since I walked in the door. If you’re having more fun than the next guy, there’s a chance they will follow.”
They certainly will laugh.
Bowyer provided a glimpse into his always-on, sometimes over-the-top personality during Fox’s Daytona 500 production day - the kind of spirited banter network executives believe will fit perfectly in the booth this season alongside Kurt Busch (two races), Joey Logano (two), Brad Keselowski (two), Ryan Blaney, crew chief Chad Knaus and Stewart.
Bowyer moved from room to room through the makeshift studio erected inside an airport hangar, chatting with producers and cameramen.
“What level of badass do you want?” he asks one.
He delivered a stoic, tough-guy look with both hands on his hips, staring into the camera and holding the pose for several seconds before busting a belly laugh. He later broke into song, belting out Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” while waiting for his next stop.
Harvick at one point slipped up from behind and put him in a headlock.
“When I realized it was some sort of wrestling move, I knew it was him,” Bowyer said.
Harvick shot back: “If I wanted to hurt you, I would have put you on your back.”
“You’re too old, man,” Bowyer responded. “You’d throw your back out doing it. You might break mine, but it’ll throw yours out and we’re both be laying there.”
Bowyer saw Brad Keselowski a few minutes later and waded right in with only question anyone wants to know.
“Did you guys kiss and make up?” Bowyer yelled.
“I’m a bad kisser,” Keselowski said.
It’s been three days since Keselowski ripped fellow drivers, including Team Penske teammate Logano, for throwing blocks during the exhibition Busch Clash. Logano blocked defending series champion Kyle Busch, causing a wreck that collected Logano and Keselowski.
“I’m going to need you to say something else, anything else,” Bowyer said. “You kissing is a bad image to have in my head.”
Bowyer walked away as Keselowski chuckled and headed to the next stop in Fox’s driver carwash. There, they walk a catwalk and “wave and point to fans” who aren’t there. They do video shoots in smoke, in front of mirrored walls and in a red, white and blue, Americana-themed room.
Bowyer does everything he’s asked along the way.
“I just spent two days at Disney World with my wife and two kids. I’ve literally been told what to do a thousand times,” he tells one producer who apologized for all the commands.
Bowyer shared story after story throughout the day. There’s the one about finding a wallet at Disney and using social media to track the guy down in “12 minutes max.” There’s another one about lightning near his North Carolina home that fried his swimming pool pump and is now affecting his heating and air conditioning unit.
He jokes about Hollywood turning him into a superstar dancer for a new sponsor commercial, provides updates about his iRacing team and glows while talking about the prospects of more short tracks and/or dirt racing on the NASCAR schedule in 2021.
All of this comes on the heels of the Kansas native traveling to Miami for the Super Bowl and watching his beloved Kansas City Chiefs rally to beat San Francisco.
“Here’s the worst thing about the Super Bowl being in Miami: Every party you go to down there has the most beautiful people you’ve ever seen, right?” he said. “So you start drinking more to try to make yourself more attractive.”
Bowyer spent days recovering from his hangover, then got to Daytona and would love another party. He’s winless in 14 Daytona 500 starts and 0 for 28 in Cup Series races at the famed track. He feels like that could be a good omen considering he drives the No. 14 Ford.
“You think about it,” he concedes, delivering a serious tone for one of the few times all day. “I didn’t think about it early in my career. … The years click by and you think about how that opportunity only comes once a year and I want to win that race. That is the one that you want to win.”
Bowyer, who landed his new gig partly because Harvick lightened his workload this year, plans to be brutally honest in his venture with Fox and let the viewers judge his performance. He figures they ultimately will determine whether this becomes his life after racing.
“His personality sets him apart from all the others,” said Bill Richards, Fox Sports’ executive vice president of production. “He’s just himself. Win, lose or draw, he’s not pretending to be anything else.”
Bowyer hopes his close-up shows that as much as anything else.
“By no means am I ready to get out of that car,” he says. “That’s my favorite thing to do. And until I can’t line up and be competitive and be an asset to an organization, that’s exactly what I intend to do.
“In the meantime, it’s going to be fun to interact with fans and show some personality for these younger drivers coming in. We’ll see what happens from there.”
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