Certainly, I can’t say that I am a NASCAR fan. However, today I met a driver that I’ll be happy to follow. Clint Bowyer came to KU and met football coach Turner Gill, women’s basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson and Danny Manning and Barry Hinson from men’s basketball.
Bowyer grew up in Emporia and has been a life-long KU fan. His grand tour today was far from the normal visit. Bowyer was honestly thrilled to be taking it all in during his ultimate “Kansas Athletics Experience”. That made going through the same offices and locker rooms I see all the time something different today. That and the fact Bowyer turned out to be such a great guy made for a fun afternoon.
Lots of gifts were exchanged including what have to be very expensive autographed racing helmets for Gill and Bill Self. With most NASCAR drivers living in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is the home of the big racing teams, Bowyer is surrounded by North Carolina Tar Heels fans. With all the KU gear Bowyer collected, the young driver won’t have any trouble standing out in his Crimson and Blue amid a pale blue sea.
Having Barry Hinson lead the tour through the basketball facilities was especially interesting. Hinson could convince anyone that there is good beach-front property available in the Sahara and really mean it. His passion for the amazing aura of Allen Fieldhouse certainly fired up Bowyer who is used to seeing 165,000 fans at Daytona. There were other racing fans that met Bowyer, but none knew more about Bowyer’s career than basketball player Jordan Juenemann, who proved to be a true “gear head”.
Laura and I have gone to Formula One races. I loved covering the exotic prototype cars that once raced at Heartland Park Topeka. I’ve even covered NASCAR while in Phoenix. Since Kansas Speedway opened we helped cover one Indy Car race for the Associated Press, but weekend KU coverage has always kept us away from the Speedway when NASCAR comes to town in the fall. With a second NASCAR race coming to the Kansas Speedway starting next season, we might have a chance.
My oldest daughter Julie and her fiancee Tim are both big NASCAR fans. Tim grew up in the South where racing is a religious experience. They both have their favorite drivers in Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Now, we’ll have a rooting interest inside the Cheerios #33 car with Clint Bowyer at the wheel.
For NASCAR and Bowyer fans, please take a look at the photo gallery from today’s events here.