KANSAS CITY, Kan. – So, when is 95 miles per hour scarier than 200 mph? For Clint Bowyer it was when a very, very hard baseball came at him at 95 as he stood in a batter’s box at Kauffman Stadium earlier this week.
Bowyer, driver of the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota Camry and who grew up about 100 miles away from Kauffman, made his way to that batter’s box courtesy of Kansas Speedway and defending American League champion Kansas City Royals.
And on a night at the old ballpark during which he was just going to be relaxing and munching hot dogs.
“I showed up and suited me up and we went and had batting practice,” Bowyer – a native of Emporia, Kan. who is back in The Heartland to drive in Saturday night’s SpongeBob SquarePants 400 Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway – said. “Went to the bullpen and (Jeremy) Guthrie (pitcher, Kansas City Royals) threw some stuff at me. He threw a fastball by me and then a curveball.”
Bowyer found out how civilians feel when he gives them thrill rides in fast cars from time to time at race tracks.
“Man, I’m telling you,” he said, “when you stand in front of that baseball it gives you a whole new appreciation for a professional level of ball like that – holy cow. Here I am, my knees are already buckled and I’m starting to get out of the way and by the time it hits the dirt it’s like 12 feet away from you. It wasn’t even close. Great experience, fun to see the Royals. It’s been a great ride here so far and they ain’t done yet.”
The fun will be just beginning should Bowyer win at the Kansas. And hot fun it could be. Bowyer, whose best finish in Cup at his home track was second back in 2007, said that if he wins on Saturday, he just might break out the flamethrower that was given to him as a gift when his baby was born last September.
With half – or more – of the population of Emporia at the Speedway for the race, Bowyer will have no shortage of people to celebrate with if he wins.
“You always have that pressure and when you go home it’s that much more because all your friends will start calling last Thursday – ‘Are you ready to win Kansas?” Bowyer said. “We’re going to be there Tuesday, are you ready?’ It would be awesome to win here. We’re going to need a hospital if we win here.”