Stories

Bowyer ready for return trip to Hays

By NICK SCHWIEN

nschwien@dailynews.net

A year ago, Clint Bowyer was surrounded by throngs of fans his entire night at RPM Speedway in Hays.

That's something the NASCAR driver from Emporia has grown accustomed to as he quickly continues to become one of the sport's top drivers.

"Last year, we came out and the fan turnout was awesome," Bowyer said. "Scott Crawford is a big sponsor of my late-model team, and it's great to get a chance again to come out. ... I look forward to getting out there."

Bowyer finished seventh at last year's inaugural Mod Mania event at Hays' 3/8-mile dirt oval. It was the first time Bowyer had seen the track in northwest Kansas.

On Tuesday, Bowyer will get his second chance to compete on the track at Mod Mania -- thanks to Crawford's company.

Bowyer will spend time at the business in Hays before heading to the track to take a look at his modified he'll be piloting. For the second year in a row, Belleville Motorsports will be supplying the car for the NASCAR driver to compete in.

"We're always excited to do that deal," said BMS manager Brandon Blochlinger. "It's something we could do every year."

Blochlinger and his crew -- including head fabricator Glen Bird, fabricators Chris White and Aaron Begnoche, precision assembler Jake Williams, phone tech and partsman Andy Claiborne and office manager Mary Simmons -- have been working overtime to give Bowyer the best car he can possibly have come race time.

Bowyer will run Blochlinger's modified he has been competing in this season, opting not to put the NASCAR driver into a car that hasn't seen any action yet this year.

"Just getting someone like that in the car and getting the feedback is good," Blochlinger said. "But it takes a lot of work. You can't just get in and go race. We've got to string new sheet metal and other things to make it happen."

Last year, Ken Schrader joined the night of racing at Mod Mania. He won't be returning this time, but Bowyer will be bringing along one of his members of his dirt track team -- Jared Landers.

Landers is a regular on dirt tracks in the nation, and just last week he finished 12th at the Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway in Ohio, where he drove a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series vehicle at the track owned by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. Landers will be driving a Jet Racing modified, manufactured in Beatrice, Neb.

Bowyer is excited to bring a member of his team along for the trip to Hays. But he's also planning a few tricks to slow down the dirt-track regular.

"It's certainly going to be hard to beat Jared," Bowyer said Friday as he prepared for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Brickyard 400 race Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "I told him I was going to pull a plug wire off his car before the feature to make sure I beat him. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Bowyer is in the midst of one of his best NASCAR seasons. Entering today's race at Indy, he is second in the driver standings behind multi-time champ Jimmie Johnson.

There are seven races remaining before the Chase for the Cup begins Sept. 15 in Chicago. The final 10 races of the season -- including an Oct. 6 date at Kansas Speedway -- will determine the 2013 champ.

"It's always a lot of fun to race on the short tracks across the county," Bowyer said. "It's nice to do that like I've done a couple times this year so far and not worry about the big picture there."

While races begin at 7 p.m., pits open at 4 p.m. and grandstands at 5. Hot laps are scheduled for 6 p.m.

The winner of the modified feature Tuesday night will take home $2,000, while the winner of the Northern sport mod event will pocket $1,000.

Dylan Smith of Osceola, Neb., won the race in 2012, and he's expected to return this week to compete -- along with some of IMCA's best drivers.

Bowyer's appearance in 2012 helped bring thousands of fans to the track, giving RPM officials one of the largest crowds in the track's history.

Crawford, president of Crawford Supply's Traeger Division in Hays, said he hopes for another good turnout.

"We're definitely glad to have him back," he said. "I think the fans are excited about it, too."

While Bowyer would like to win the night's modified feature, he also knows it's about much more than getting behind the wheel.

"When you do these things, you obviously want to go and compete and do well," he said. "But, honestly, it's all about the fans and giving back to them."

Advance tickets can be purchased at Crawford Supply Stores in Hays, Plainville and Hill City, and at Walgreens in Hays.

Tickets also will be available at the gate Tuesday night.