Clint Bowyer appeared on ESPN’s SportsCenter this morning to address the situation which occurred with him and his Michael Waltrip Racing team last Saturday at Richmond. Here is the interview:
Just a few thoughts in reaction to this:
The interview begins with conversation about Bowyer’s phone call to Ryan Newman to apologize. The phone call was a nice gesture by Bowyer, and he’s right that most situations in NASCAR are addressed with a phone call (at least as far as I can tell; I’ve never been a racecar driver).
He adds, of course, that the only time he didn’t make a phone call was last year (the Jeff Gordon incident). Thanks for bringing that up, Clint. In fact, if he called to apologize to Newman, Jeff Gordon should have also been called, regardless of their history, and been apologized to, because the caution hurt him almost as much as it did Newman.
After ESPN plays an audio clip of a Ryan Newman interview, Bowyer is asked if he is admitting to spinning on purpose, to which he replied, “No, no, let’s not dig too much into this.” What? If you called him to apologize but won’t admit your guilt, then what are you apologizing for? If it had been an accident, an apology wouldn’t be necessary. If he had committed a crime, he couldn’t just say to the police, “Let’s not dig too much into this.” That wouldn’t work.
He also acts as if he’s tired of hearing about it and dealing with it. That’s the price you pay; the perpetrator of an incident doesn’t get to decide how long and how intensely it is talked about.
He is asked again, after apologizing on air to the fans, what he is apologizing for, and he completely avoids answering the question: “Anytime…well…you think…I went from leading the race to in the middle of a…a disaster. [I’m] extremely disappointed in the way the race was, and how it…I could’ve just as easily been in victory lane. You know it’s…a…it’s a bad deal, and…bad deal all the way around for MWR; again, we’ve been penalized for this, we stand by our actions, we own up to them, and we’re gonna get through this together and move on.”
He then says when asked about those who perceive he spun out intentionally that he’ll “earn their fan base back”, as he started his career with nothing, and is “not scared to do it again.” Of course, he never had some people like me in his fan base to start with, and the respect that I once had for him, I lost during the Jeff Gordon rivalry and brawl last year. He had gained it back somewhat, but now it’s completely gone. I’m not talking about being part of his fan base; I’m talking about respect. I respect just about every driver out there, but no longer Clint Bowyer, both because of the incident, and his reaction.
Ricky Craven comes in, and says he felt NASCAR did a great job. I disagree. Anyone doubting my stance on that should read “NASCAR Penalties for MWR Debacle” on this blog. But then Craven goes on to question Bowyer directly, and the next 5 minutes or so of video were worth watching.
Craven suggests one option for closure would be for Bowyer to apologize in the driver’s meeting Sunday at Chicago. That would be a great step, since it’s about as close to an admission as we’ll get from Bowyer, and it would bring closure, at least as far as the drivers go (the fans may never have closure, just because that’s how these things go, in all sports).
Craven tells Bowyer “I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt,” which is one part of the interview I could do without, but then he goes on to question Bowyer on his credibility. Bowyer admits that “of course” he will have to regain his credibility, which in my eyes means that he at least acknowledges, albeit indirectly, that some people see what he did as wrong.
In closing, Craven mentions fans who may have spent large amounts of money to fly to Richmond and buy race tickets, only to feel like “they got robbed” when Bowyer spun out (and also with the Vickers pit situation that isn’t mentioned in the video, likely only because Bowyer, not Brian Vickers or Ty Norris, is being interviewed). Craven suggests this story is bigger than himself or Clint Bowyer or any one individual, but instead about the overall integrity of the sport. Well said.