In 2000 Clint Bowyer, the son of a towing company owner from Emporia, Kansas, won the modified track championship at Thunderhill Speedway in Mayetta. The aspiring dirt track modified racer moved his racing to Lakeside Speedway near Kansas City in 2001 winning the track championship and nine races. The next year he won 18 times and the climb was on.
In August of 2003 Bowyer made his ARCA debut at Nashville Superspeedway, driving for a local Kansas City racer named Scott Traylor who rounded up money from several Kansas City businessmen. He led 47 laps in that race and finished second.
As the story goes, that race caught the eye of NASCAR team owner Richard Childress who made a call to the then 24-year-old racer. Bowyer, assuming it was a prank from one of his buddies, about hung up the phone; but soon realized it was no joke.
Ten NASCAR Cup Series wins and 537 starts later Bowyer will make his final start at his home track on Sunday in the Hollywood Casino 400. He also earned the 2008 Xfinity Series Championship, eight wins in the series and is a three-time winner in the NASCAR Gander RV’s and Outdoors Series…one of those at Kansas Speedway.
While Bowyer was winning modified races and growing his career in the Kansas City area, another motorsports entity was also being developed. Ground broke in a vacant area west of the city in 1999 on Kansas Speedway, it is a piece of property Bowyer drove by every week on his trips from Emporia to Lakeside Speedway. By 2001 the Kansas Speedway started hosting race.
“Kansas has a lot of great memories,” said Bowyer. “My first memory was 2001 sitting on top of a motorhome with a beer in my hand watching Jeff Gordon win the first race.”
Ironically, Bowyer will join Gordon in 2021 in the NASCAR On Fox television coverage.
Emporia is about 100 miles southwest of Kansas Speedway and while Bowyer relocated to North Carolina, he continues to be active in his hometown. In March 2013 he bought the car dealership he once worked at as a lot attendant, dent specialist and detailer. That is now Clint Bowyer Autoplex.
Across the street is the Clint Bowyer Community building, built in 2012 thanks to a $1.5 million donation from his foundation. The building houses the public library, an aquatic center, auditorium and from the building multiple charitable events are hosted. And there is even an “Hon. Clint Bowyer Boulevard” in his hometown.
While the Kansas Speedway has a special place in Bowyer’s heart because of its location, it has been a source of frustration for him as a racer.
“It’s been a bear on me,” he said. “One of my worst tracks, that suck so bad. Like there is nothing worse. Why can’t the Roval be Kansas Speedway, or something like that where I’m good. A short track where I’ve had really good success over the years.”
Bowyer has 24 Cup starts at Kansas with only three top five finishes and eight top-10s. Yet the fun-loving driver was still ready to make a bold prediction.
“I’m gonna come there and I’m gonna bust their ass this weekend,” he said with a chuckle. “I don’t know how I’m gonna do it, but it’s gonna happen. Write it down.”