Driver Reports : Previewing the Daytona race
Earnhardt Jr. eyes sweep; can winless driver jumble Chase field?
Ford Performance announces NASCAR driver development program
Ford Performance announced Thursday another major push in its NASCAR initiative, launching a driver development program ahead of the 2017 season. The first phase includes an agreement with Brad Keselowski Racing, placing new Ford signee Chase Briscoe in a full-time ride in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series . Ford Performance indicated that other stages of the driver development program would be announced at a later time. The program is designed to cultivate home-grown talent for all Ford teams in NASCAR. According to the news release, current teams will be consulted about driver selection and placement, but their contractual ties will reside with Ford, which will also use signees in product development and testing. "We're making a commitment to win long-term in NASCAR," Dave Pericak, Ford Performance's global director, said in a release provided by the manufacturer. "We have been increasing our engineering support and our technological development at the team level, and now we're looking to work with our teams to find the best available drivers coming up in the sport." The move further strengthens the ties with the automaker and team owner Brad Keselowski , which will field Ford trucks full-time for Austin Cindric and now Briscoe this season. Briscoe, a 22-year-old Indiana native with a rich sprint-car racing pedigree, landed the ARCA championship in 2016, riding a six-win season to the series crown. "This is a big day in the history of BKR," Keselowski said in the news release. "To be recognized as a true partner to Ford and Ford Performance and what they are trying to do speaks directly to the hard work our team has put in over the last several years. It is an honor, frankly, and it is really what BKR is all about -- providing young, talented drivers with championship-caliber equipment to continue to hone their craft and showcase their talents. "We have been fortunate to have had a lot of success together with Ford across the three major NASCAR touring series and to now elevate that relationship in an official capacity is a testament to what we set out to do." The move marks the second significant boost for Ford's racing program ahead of the season. Stewart-Haas Racing 's four-car organization has joined the Blue Oval camp for 2017, helping Ford Performance increase its numbers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage. That expansion also included the birth of a NASCAR XFINITY Series program for SHR, with Cole Custer competing full-time and Kevin Harvick driving on a part-time basis. </p>
Reports : Edwards exits No. 19; Suarez moves up with JGR
TUNE IN: JGR press conference, 10 a.m. ET Wednesday Carl Edwards will step out of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and the team will put reigning NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Daniel Suarez in the car, according to multiple reports . FOXSports.com initially reported the news. Joe Gibbs Racing has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET. The event will be live-streamed on NASCAR.com. RELATED: Carl Edwards' 2016 season in review &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
'Be yourself' resonates with young drivers at seminar
CHARLOTTE -- Being a race car driver entails much more than getting behind the wheel. Before the start of a new season, NASCAR walked its younger drivers through different aspects of the sport during its annual Driver Development Seminar. The 2017 edition was held Friday at the NASCAR Plaza in Charlotte, North Carolina. Through guest speakers and breakout sessions, the assembled group was given a chance to hear from some of the most influential individuals in the sport. Among the featured guest speakers were NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Brent Dewar, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Jill Gregory, Monster Energy Director of Motorsports Dave Gowland, FS1 broadcaster Adam Alexander, Lauren Murray, social media manager for Jimmie Johnson Racing Digital, and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson himself. "It really is a pretty comprehensive experience," driver Spencer Gallagher said. "I liked it. It's worth getting up at 7 in the morning for." This was Gallagher's fourth time experiencing the seminar, and the XFINITY Series rookie for GMS Racing called it NASCAR's best one yet. Among the topics broached was a look at the business of NASCAR, as well as a driver's identity. Gallagher pointed out some of the more interesting sessions, such as being given advice on how to get the most out of social media, what goes into a good interview and a driver's style. "It's a really informative event, especially about how we as drivers influence the direction of the series and the sport that we're in and how we can be ambassadors to the outside world," Gallagher said. "People have to want to watch us, and we as drivers play a very big role in that. It's really good to see NASCAR putting forth the effort to help train us. They bring in the best in the business and then tell you exactly how they do it." Matt Tifft was equally impressed. Now a full-time driver in the XFINITY Series for Joe Gibbs Racing , Tifft listened as O'Donnell talked about NASCAR's mission of seeing the sport's next superstar potentially come from the assembled group. With the welcoming of a new premier series sponsor, Monster Energy, Tifft was struck by how NASCAR is looking for drivers to show his or her individual personality this year. Something Tifft, at 20 years old, thinks will not only be a good thing, but also is needed for the sport to grow. "They want us to be ourselves and resonate (with others) and cross promote and bring people in from other interests and things like that," Tifft said. "I think it's a good idea and I think we probably need to do more of that as a sport." Tifft missed a portion of the 2016 season following surgery to remove a brain tumor. During his time away from the track, Tifft said it gave him perspective on how drivers need to step out of the bubble they can become trapped in during a season and take a look at how they can better represent themselves on and off the race track. The seminar drove home that point. Drivers like Myatt Snider and Chase Briscoe were given plenty to digest as each is set to begin the next chapter of his career. Snider will compete part-time for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series, and Briscoe is going full-time with Brad Keselowski Racing. "The biggest takeaway I've heard is they're going to let us kind of be our self a lot more," Briscoe said. "I think that's going to be good for everyone; I think it's going to be great for the sport, obviously. Looking forward to that. "Other than that, it's really cool to see how they're telling us to expand our brand. I feel like as a race car driver your brand is one of the most important things you can do. So building that brand outside what you do in the race car is obviously big and it's big for your future."
Reinvigorated Martin relishes second chances, Hall of Fame nod
RELATED: Learn more about the Class of 2017 " Martin's top moments CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Mark Martin described the rollicking ride of emotions leading up to his induction speech for the NASCAR Hall of Fame as far more difficult than anything that he ever experienced in a race car. A heady statement, since Martin's path to stock-car stardom was anything but easy. "I can't tell you how it feels to stand up here in front of you tonight," Martin said. "It's a feeling that my words could never do justice." But Mark Martin had all the words Friday night, just over 1,500 of them in a heartfelt address that capped a stellar night in the Charlotte Convention Center. He joined Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons in the Hall's eighth class of five inductees. When it was all done and Martin was officially enshrined, the 58-year-old driver felt invigorated. "I feel like I've had a cup of coffee or I've been playing some Gucci Mane," Martin said with a laugh. "I'm wide open." The circuitous path to NASCAR enshrinement, which started on the rickety back roads with one-lane bridges in his native Arkansas, was a long time coming. And though he's just more than three years removed from his final big-league start -- in a fill-in stint for the injured Tony Stewart in the 2013 finale -- Martin says he's transferred his trademark determination to more mundane pursuits. "How shiny can I get my motor home. I've got to get that trash and take it out. That light bulb is burned out, dammit," Martin said of his day-to-day life now. "… You know, I just do all the things that I used to pay people to do. I still go like hell every day. That's the same ol' me. "Yeah, I just really enjoy not -- not having that laser focus. I'm still focused. Don't get me wrong. And I'm still OCD and I still run wide open, and I'm still odd about how I want things and all that. I'm still that same guy. But you know, life is just a lot more serene for me now." Martin nearly exited the sport twice, once because of unfortunate circumstances and another by his choice. His career nearly short-circuited during a struggle-filled 1982 season, but Martin stuck with it, eventually landing a second chance with car owner Jack Roush in a partnership that lifted both to elite status. "Because racing was my passion," Martin said when asked what kept him going. "The easy thing to do was to go to the trucking company that my dad owned and go to work there. I had no interest in that trucking company. The only thing I knew was racing." And when he dialed back his driving duties with two part-time seasons in 2007 and '08, it was Hendrick -- his fellow inductee and ever the salesman -- who persuaded him back to a full-season ride. The agreement yielded one his most prolific seasons -- the last five of his 40 premier-series wins and his last brush with the championship trophy that eluded him. In his three-year absence from the driver's seat, Martin says he's missed the people, the media, the garage and the fans. He hasn't missed driving the race cars, but his competitive nature, he says, has never left him. Martin seems content in channeling his tenacious spirit toward fixing an electrical outlet or other do-it-yourself projects these days. But though the lure of the track may have faded, he said he looks forward to his career enjoying a sense of permanence in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "This makes me feel like I have a place, a little bit of a place," Martin says. "But the thing about racing is when you step out, the hole closes behind you so fast, it's unbelievable, as a driver , as a crew chief, crew member, whatever. I'm sure even doing your job, you step out for very long, that hole closes, man. It ain't easy to get back inside. I stepped out, and the holes closed, and I just -- I embrace this opportunity to represent the NASCAR Hall of Fame because it makes me very proud that we have this because of how important it is to me to know the full story about Raymond Parks. I knew who he was and whatnot, but I know the full story now. "So for a guy who's been here for so long to learn that through this process, just think what it's going to do 50 years from now, how important it's going to be." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Gene Nead named crew chief for DiBenedetto, No. 32 team
MOORESVILLE, N.C. - Go Fas Racing is pleased to announce that Gene Nead will assume crew chief duties for the No. 32 Ford Fusion in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for the 2017 season. "I'm excited to be joining the Go Fas Racing team," Nead said. "I've enjoyed working with Matt the last couple of seasons and I'm really looking forward to working with the rest of the guys on our No. 32 Ford team." Nead, a veteran crew chief, brings to GFR more than 20 years of crew chief experience in NASCAR's top-three series' and has accumulated 9 wins, 66 top-five finishes, and 11 poles. Last year, he served as crew chief of the No. 83 at BK Racing , where he worked with Matt DiBenedetto , and together they earned their best ever finish of sixth place at Bristol Motor Speedway . "I am so fortunate to have Gene with me at Go Fas Racing . He has made me into a better all-around driver and his experience has taught me so much in the past year and a half. I can honestly say that I wouldn't be the driver I am without him," said driver Matt DiBenedetto for GFR. " We have a great relationship and we are both extremely competitive. Gene is going to make a big difference in our program at Go Fas Racing and we all appreciate him coming on board." </p>
Predicting where Daniel Suarez could get first win
MORE: Track Suarez's path to NASCAR star Daniel Suarez 's rise to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition following the abrupt departure of Carl Edwards from full-time racing has us wondering how the incoming Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender will fare in his first season at the big league level. Let's take a look back at how the reigning NASCAR XFINITY Series champion has performed throughout his NASCAR career in lower series across tracks he'll be racing at in 2017. (Note: While success at certain tracks as a driver moves up the ranks doesn't necessarily guarantee similar results at the Cup level, it can give a bit of insight into a driver's strengths and weaknesses.) First and foremost, Suarez picked up three wins over two full-time seasons in his XFINITY Series career, all three of which came en route in 2016 to his first NASCAR national series title. The three victories came at Michigan (four laps led), Dover (123 laps led) and, of course, Homestead, where Suarez led a dominating 133 of 200 laps from the pole to secure the race victory and the championship. Three distinct tracks, three different lengths (2 miles, 1 mile, 1.5 miles, respectively.) Tough to draw much from that other than point out that Suarez, clearly, isn't a one-trick pony. Let's dig a little deeper. Over his 68 total XFINITY Series starts, Suarez had multiple top-five finishes at six tracks. Guess what? None of them were the ones he won at, muddying the picture a bit more. Phoenix and Kentucky top the list with three apiece, followed by two each at New Hampshire, Bristol, Charlotte and Darlington. All of these tracks range 1-mile to 1.5-miles in length, save for the half-mile Bristol. We may be getting warmer. Suarez has four tracks on his resume at which he averages a finish inside the top five in Darlington, Homestead, New Hampshire and Indianapolis. He's led more than 100 laps at Homestead and Dover, and has a pole at Kentucky, Homestead, Auto Club and Daytona. Moving onto the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series , Suarez has just a single win at Phoenix, but has only compiled a total of 27 starts across three part-time seasons. Still, he has multiple top-five finishes at Texas (three), Phoenix and Dover, with multiple top-10 finishes at those tracks and Martinsville. The new driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota also has a pole at Kentucky, where he's led a total of 77 laps -- tied for the most he has at any track in the series with Bristol. Suarez averaged starts in the top five at three Camping World Truck Series tracks (Kentucky, Chicago and Phoenix), while averaging a finish inside the top five at Dover, Phoenix and Texas. And, hey, for good measure -- he won at Daytona in the K&N Pro Series East in 2014. Alright, now that our heads are good and dizzy from a blizzard of numbers and facts, let's digest and make some bold semi-predictions. If Suarez is able to win a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race -- don't forget, an unexpected rookie won in 2016 ( Chris Buescher ) and two made the Chase (Buescher and Chase Elliott ), so it's certainly a distinct possibility that he could -- it appears the most likely tracks will be in that 1-mile to 1.5-mile range. Tracks of this stature make up exactly half the schedule, with 10 races before the Chase begins. Given that Suarez is stepping into a competitive ride immediately -- one that nearly won the 2016 championship just two months ago -- the talented incoming rookie will have an excellent shot at securing his first win. Look specifically to Dover, Phoenix, Texas, Kentucky, New Hampshire and -- *gulp* -- Homestead as the tracks most likely to see Suarez land in Victory Lane.
Father-son Nemechek duo set to compete at Daytona
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- NASCAR has always been known as a family sport where the love of racing has been passed from generation to generation. In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) NextEra Energy Resources 250 at the Daytona International Speedway on Friday, February 24, John Hunter Nemechek will have the opportunity few sons have enjoyed: competing against his father, 1992 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Joe Nemechek . Should both Nemecheks qualify for the race, it would be the first time a father and son have competed in the same NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race since Dave Blaney and Ryan Blaney started the 2013 Inaugural Mudsummer Classic at the Eldora Speedway . It will also be the first time a father and son have competed in any of NASCAR's top three series at the Daytona International Speedway since the 2006 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Bobby Hamilton and Bobby Hamilton Jr. The Nemecheks will even be running for the same team -- family-owned NEMCO Motorsports -- which will field John Hunter Nemechek full-time in the No. 8 Fire Alarm Services, Inc., Chevrolet for 2017, and will also field Joe Nemechek in the No. 87 Fleetwing Chevrolet in a select number of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events. Joe Nemechek and John Hunter Nemechek have competed against each other on the race track just three times before, twice in the Allison Legacy Race Series, and once in the ARCA Midwest Tour. The first time the duo competed against each other was in the Allison Legacy Race Series at the Concord Speedway in 2011 where the son finished first, and the father second. In a rematch at the Carolina Motorsports Park John Hunter Nemechek finished third, and Joe Nemechek finished fourth. The other was in an ARCA Midwest Tour event at the Milwaukee Mile in 2013, where neither driver won but experience outran youth. John Hunter Nemechek , who posted two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victories and captured his first pole award during the 2016 season, may be at a disadvantage in Daytona. Joe Nemechek has comprehensive experience at the "World Center of Racing," having five pole awards and two victories (1998, 2002), four top-five and seven top-10 finishes in the NASCAR XFINITY Series . In addition, he has the all-time NASCAR XFINITY Series most starts record, including the most laps completed record, and number of pole awards record at the Daytona International Speedway . Across the top three NASCAR divisions Nemechek has 74 total starts at the Daytona Beach, Florida, facility. The NextEra Energy Resources 250 will mark NEMCO Motorsports' fourth and fifth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at the 2.5-mile tri-oval superspeedway. Joe Nemechek posted a team best finish of eighth-place at the Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2014. The elder Nemechek last competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2015 at the Texas Motor Speedway , finishing in the sixth-place. It is not unusual for family to compete against one another in NASCAR's premier series as sets of brothers have been the norm rather than the exception. Joe Nemechek competed together with younger brother John Nemechek in three ( Watkins Glen International , Phoenix International Raceway and Walt Disney World Speedway) NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events. This will be the second NASCAR season-opening event Joe Nemechek has competed against Nemechek lineage. In the 1997 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season-opener at the Walt Disney World Speedway, Joe Nemechek in the No. 87 finished nine positions ahead of John Nemechek in the No. 8 -- both as owner- driver entries. Both father and son have collected victories, pole awards, and claimed the title of Most Popular Driver in their respective series, but only Joe Nemechek has claimed the series championship trophy. Without the dedication Joe Nemechek has had towards his son's career, John Hunter Nemechek knows he might not have had the chance to show his talents, and have the opportunity to team up with his dad at the Daytona International Speedway . Joe Nemechek and John Hunter Nemechek look to add their names to the short list of fathers and sons who have won races head-to-head in NASCAR's premier series, and be listed alongside Lee and Richard Petty, Richard and Kyle Petty, Bobby and Davey Allison, Dale and Dale Earnhardt Jr ., and Buck and Buddy Baker.
Carl Edwards' exit could put Christopher Bell on fast track to XFINITY
How long do you think it took Christopher Bell to do the math? Carl Edwards ' announcement of his abrupt exit from the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has had a ripple effect that could go far beyond the promotion of Daniel Suárez to a full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ride. Because Suárez will fill Edwards' seat in NASCAR’s premier series, he won't defend his NASCAR XFINITY Series title. Bell will be one of the beneficiaries of the changes in Suárez's schedule. "Right now, we have a solid plan for Christopher," said Dave Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development (TRD) USA. "He exceeded our expectations. He got all the way to Miami (the championship race of the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase at Homestead-Miami Speedway ). This year, we expect him to get to Miami and win. "And if circumstances play out, we really would like to get him into an XFINITY car for a couple of races. We're working hard on that, and we're optimistic, but that could very well be a domino that falls. Those are helpful -- those couple of races where there's zero pressure, but it gives you a look at the next step." Last week at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the 22-year-old Bell wasn't thinking about the next step. He was contemplating the next race, trying to become the first native Oklahoman to win the marquee event of midget racing since Andy Hillenburg accomplished the feat in 1994. (And, no, the Andy Hillenburg in question is not the Indiana-born driver who ran NASCAR races and later bought Rockingham Speedway . The Andy Hillenburg who won the Chili Bowl is a sprint car racer from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.) Bell was also thinking about the upcoming season in the Camping World Truck Series, where his own expectations mirror those of the Toyota brass. "I guess it could open it up for me," Bell said of Edwards' departure. "But, honestly, I haven't even really thought about it, because my schedule's already set, obviously, with Kyle Busch Motorsports. That's where my focus is, and we're going to aim really hard to win races this year. "We came close on the championship last year, but we didn't win many races -- we won one time. My goal is to win races with KBM." That doesn’t mean, however, that Bell wasn't enthused about the prospect of getting his first taste of the XFINITY Series. "That's great," he said during a break between features at the Chili Bowl. "That's good that I might get a couple of races -- that's really good." The extent of Bell's participation in XFINITY races depends to some degree on sponsorship. Wilson said Suárez's primary sponsor, Arris, which also sponsored Edwards, will be confined to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup car, even though Suárez will still run between eight and 12 XFINITY races. "If he (Bell) does what he should do in '17, then, naturally, we would love to get him into an XFINITY ride in '18," Wilson said. "Yes, this could play into Christopher's further development and get him one or two more XFINITY races that we may not have foreseen prior to the news (about Edwards)." Last Saturday night, Bell fulfilled his long-standing dream of winning the Chili Bowl, noting that competing in the Truck Series had informed his approach to dirt-track racing. Biding his time in the 55-lap "A" Main, Bell started on the front row and passed polesitter Justin Grant on Lap 26. He stayed out front the rest of the way. "In years past, it's been attack, attack, attack," Bell said. "This year, it didn't have to be that way. I just ran hard enough to stay in position but not get into trouble. I was able to ride behind Justin there for a while. I knew the bottom was slowing down quite a bit and I kept trying the top. I tried it two times and I almost got passed, so I knew it was going to be a matter of too early or too late at the top. "I started to watch the big screen. (Eventual runner-up Daryn) Pittman was running the top at the time. I knew he was in eighth, and I looked up and he was third or fourth so I knew I had to go. Once I went, I was able to squeak by Justin on the straightaway, and then it was a matter of just not screwing up." That sort of patience is emblematic of Bell's maturation as a driver . Early last season, he didn't look like a championship contender. In the second race of 2016, at Atlanta, his aggressiveness led to a wreck that collected Suárez, his teammate, and fellow Toyota driver and two-time series champion Matt Crafton . But Bell won at Gateway Motorsports Park nine races into the schedule, and he finished outside the top 10 just twice in the last 16 events.
Bowyer gears up for 'best opportunity' with Stewart-Haas
RELATED: First look at paint schemes of 2017 CONCORD, N.C. -- There's been plenty for Clint Bowyer to adjust to in the brief time that he's officially been a member of Stewart-Haas Racing 's driver roster. He's had to acclimate himself to the way that his new team operates. He's also had to become more familiar with the personnel on the No. 14 Ford that Bowyer will drive in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. A helpful hand from his new crew chief, Mike Bugarewicz, has helped Bowyer adjust to both of those new concepts. When Bowyer half-jokingly asked Bugarewicz if he had a team roster to keep him from addressing his crewmembers with, "Hey, buddy," or similar salutations, the second-year crew chief unexpectedly delivered. "He's such a dedicated person and so prepared, he literally went and took pictures of all the guys and e-mailed me the names of them," Bowyer said Wednesday during a preseason media event at the sprawling Ford Performance Technical Center. "I'm like, 'Man, you didn't have to do that. I could've come down.' " At which point Tony Stewart , his team owner and predecessor in the No. 14, interjected: "He says he didn't need that. He needed that, trust me." Laughing aside, Bowyer continued to underscore his point. "That's the level of dedication that you have at Stewart-Haas," Bowyer said. "And it doesn't just end with Mike, it's all across the board. If you ask for something … you've got to be careful asking for something because it's just done." RELATED: Harvick bullish on changes " Transition to Ford among top story lines The next adjustment that Bowyer may have to make is getting accustomed to relevance, something in short supply even before he was announced Sept. 30, 2015 as the successor to three-time series champion Stewart for the organization's flagship team. Bowyer drove in relative obscurity for Michael Waltrip Racing in its waning days, then languished through a throwaway season in 2016 with the former HScott Motorsports operation as he waited his turn to join SHR. "If he could've clicked his heels three times and made it 2017, he'd have done it in a heartbeat," Stewart said. "But we were all just reminding him: 'Be patient. You've got a lot to look forward to.' And we were hoping that his season would turn around at some point, too, but it didn't work out that way and it wasn't for a lack of effort on their side. "I think the nice thing, though, is -- as odd as this sounds -- I've seen him a lot calmer than I saw him all last year. I don't know that he's ever calm, but you can tell he's excited about what's coming up. He's genuinely excited about getting in the 14 car and that makes us happy, too." RELATED: Stewart at ease in new role at SHR Bowyer's authentic anticipation is attached to what he calls "the best opportunity I've ever had." Not only does the 37-year-old driver now have an avenue to potentially return to Victory Lane for the first time in more than four seasons, he also has the chance to place his name back among the sport's top tier. Bowyer has always been known as one of the most animated and energetic figures in the NASCAR garage. But performance -- or a lack of it, in the case of Bowyer's most recent body of work -- has a way of shuffling even the most engaging figures to the shadows. Bowyer's return to a high-profile ride likely changes both the prevailing perceptions and his exposure level, but the results will need to follow suit. "Here's what I hope -- I sure hope you're watching me," Bowyer said. "At the end of the day, relevancy in this sport is everything and I've lost that a little bit. Not a little bit, a lot. And I felt it and didn't like it. It's up to me to go out and become relevant again, have you watch me and talking about me. "It makes everything better. This is a business. This is racing, but once you race at this level, it becomes a business and it trickles down to everything in your life. We're race car drivers but we do this for a business. From my dirt program, everything, my (car) dealership, it just really trickles down. Every business thing that's happened really feeds off of your success on that race track. I had a bad year and I want to become relevant again. You don't work as hard and you have a hell of a lot more fun." RELATED: Key moments in SHR history Before he embarks on that goal, Bowyer has had fun getting better acquainted with his new surroundings, no doubt aided by Bugarewicz's handy chart. But the jollity has also extended to enjoying the luxuries of championship-level equipment for a change. Bowyer marveled at the comfort and quality of his new carbon-fiber seat, remarking "I feel rich" with regards to the perfectly tailored fit. And in a further illustration of Stewart-Haas' attention to precise details, Bowyer was asked last weekend about his preference for a gearshift handle. When the newest SHR driver reacted with indifference in saying that any handle would do, he was presented with eight possible choices. "I think we have dialed in the right gearshift handle for myself and my success this year," Bowyer said with a wry smile. "If not, we have plenty of extras to go around." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;