Hall of Fame baseball player Ernie Banks is best remembered for not only his amazing play at shortstop and first base for the Chicago Cubs, but also for his enthusiasm announcing, “Let’s Play Two” on many sunny days in Chicago as the Cubs took the field.
Clint Bowyer is more of a Kansas City Royal fan, but echoes Banks’ sentiment when it comes to NASCAR racing.
“Two races in one weekend at Pocono is going to be really cool,” Bowyer said when asked about the Cup Series’ first doubleheader this weekend at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. “I think this is a great idea. I hope it catches on at other places.”
The Cup Series will run a 325-mile race Saturday, followed by a 350-mile race Sunday. In the past, the Pocono races were just weeks apart in June and July. Bowyer said the short turnaround time this weekend will pose a challenge to the drivers and race teams.
“Everybody knows the key to success is preparation and it can’t be any more important than this weekend,” he said. “Pocono’s always been one of those tracks where you think you’re right going into that first race, but a month later you’ve always had another opportunity to kind of right the wrong if you weren’t.
“Now, if you go there this weekend and you’re no good on Saturday, guess what? You better get your head right because you’re going to struggle on Sunday, too. That’s going be a game changer for people. You want to definitely unload good and make sure that your race is good, and don’t tear up anything.”
It’s fitting that on a weekend when man and machine will be tested like no other time in the sport’s history, Bowyer will carry the Mobil 1 paint scheme on his No. 14 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
Mobil 1 isn’t just the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand, it also provides the entire SHR team with leading lubricant technology, ensuring that all SHR Mustangs have a competitive edge over the competition on the track. In its 17th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series.
“Mobil 1 has people on our truck after practice taking a look at our lubricants and making sure everything is performing as needed,” Bowyer said. “That’s an advantage. A huge advantage. They are more than just a sponsor on our car. Mobil 1 is a partner and we are going to lean on them this weekend in Pocono for sure.”
Sunday’s race marks the 10th and 11th Cup Series races since May 17 and will be run as NASCAR continues to operate since returning from a 10-week hiatus due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As it did at the previous races, NASCAR series and team personnel in the infield will continue to operate under a comprehensive health and safety plan at Pocono that permits no fans, limited crew, strict social distancing, and mandated personal protective equipment and health screenings for all.
Bowyer said the only disappointment this weekend is not having fans in attendance due to COVID-19 pandemic.
“When they first announced this race, I thought about how much fun it would be going out in the infield and camping sites and seeing what the fans were doing,” he said. “It sucks that we can’t have fans there to enjoy this with us. Before this virus, every weekend you’ll see me get on a golf cart or go for a walk and see how fans take in our sport. Now, we’ll be stuck in a motorhome.”
Bowyer said Pocono is kind of a throwback track.
“Pocono is one of the tracks where fans are sitting in the grandstands right there in the middle of the garage,” Bowyer said. “When you walk by, they are very vocal and it was always kind of cool to stop and talk with them and sign some autographs. I’ll miss that this weekend.”
Once Bowyer buckles in the No. 14 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang, there will be work to do. He arrives at Pocono 13th in points after a last-lap accident left him with a 25th-place finish Monday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Things are starting to get serious as NASCAR’s 26-race regular season begins the second half of schedule Saturday at Pocono.
A win will vault Bowyer into the NASCAR playoffs that begin in September. A win at Pocono will also put Bowyer in the NASCAR All-Star race on July 15 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Without a win between now and July 15, Bowyer will race in the NASCAR All-Star Race Open with hopes a good run will transfer him to the All-Star Race.