If opposites attract, then Stewart-Haas Racing found the right crew chief for Clint Bowyer.
Mike Bugarewicz was promoted from lead engineer for Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team to crew chief for Tony Stewart in 2016. He remained with the No. 14 crew after Stewart retired and Bowyer came on board.
It has been awhile since I have had someone as dedicated as Mike (Bugarewicz) is
Clint Bowyer on crew chief
Where Bowyer has traditionally been the life of the party, “Buga” is anything but. And he let his new driver know that early in their relationship.
“Man, it is the hardest thing to try to get a laugh out of him or a rise in any way other than just pissed or completely disgusted with me,” Bowyer said. “It is a lot of fun though. He is young. That is the neat thing about Mike, how young he is compared to a lot of his peers in his profession. The work ethic is what you care about and I think that is what he cares about with me.
“As long as I show up for my meetings and take my work seriously. That is the thing about me that people don’t see, that side. I want to run up front. I want to compete. That is why I get out of bed and go to work. That is why you go each and every weekend and drag your family all across the country to do this. Because you love to do it and want to compete and win these races.”
A calming influence
Last weekend SHR team co-owner Tony Stewart was also on the radio with Bowyer at Martinsville offering advice. After spending 28-races with Bugarewicz last year, Stewart believed the engineer-turned-crew chief would be a calming influence on Bowyer.
“We’re a lot alike except his attention span is fractional compared to mine,” Stewart said of Bowyer. “You guys all know that. It’s no secret…But Buga is the right guy for him. When he worked with me, I told him if I start getting overboard on emotion, just let me vent and then tell me to get focussed again and drive the car.
“And that’s what he’s kind of doing with Clint and it seems to be working with him as well. I think Buga is really showing a lot of maturity for a guy who is in his sophomore year as a crew chief, this early. He’s had like four drivers already in a handful of races already. I think he’s doing a real good job.”
Bowyer is looking to beef up his Monster Energy Cup career-win totals. In 403 over the last 12 seasons, Bowyer has accumulated eight victories. In the two years prior to coming to SHR, Bowyer scored just two top-five finishes with the now defunct HScott Motorsports.
Already seeing results
Under the direction of Bugarewicz, Bowyer is currently eighth in the standings. His average finish in the last five races is 8.8.
“It has been awhile since I have had someone as dedicated as Mike is,” Bowyer said. “You literally have to tell him to go home, go eat dinner with your family, take your wife out to dinner, do something to get your mind off this. He will call you and 9 or 10-o’clock at night and he is still working.
“That work ethic is instilled in pretty much everybody at Stewart-Haas and Mike is no exception. We are very fortunate to have him. He has brought me a lot of good hot rods already. Personality wise, probably not, I would say you are spot-on there. We are definitely polar opposites there. At the end of the day when you run up front and finish up front everybody is happy. It doesn’t matter what kind of person you are.”
As for running up front at Texas Motor Speedway, Bowyer didn’t seem overly concerned with the new repave or configuration of the 1.5-mile track. After Michigan, Bristol and Kansas were repaved in 2012, Bowyer posted top 10 finishes in all three events.
After first practice, Bowyer was 18th-quick (191.218mph) and completed 28 laps.
“These teams are so good with their experience with the technology that we have and the tools that they have, it is just incredible to see them go through a race weekend even on new pavement or old pavement and be able to find that optimal grip load in the car and ultimately makes the thing fast,” Bowyer said. “They will have it trimmed out. That is the crazy thing about these teams, how close they can get these cars to 100-percent. Mechanical grip is what I am talking about. Aero grip and things like that are some things that you can or can’t adjust but at the end of the day all the teams in this garage at this level are pretty good at getting this thing close to 100-percent.
“All that being said you have to unload a good hot rod. The guys have to do a good job at the shop to bring a car capable of getting the job done for these teams that are at the track to go to work and have their turn at bat. I think everybody has been nervous about this one.”