October 03, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) Midnight was approaching Tuesday, and Clint Bowyer was bummed. His hometown Royals were on the verge of losing to Oakland in their first playoff appearance in decades, and his baby boy was stubbornly refusing to make his entrance into the world.

''Then everything starts going crazy,'' Bowyer said.

While the Royals were busy rallying for a dramatic 12-inning win over the A's, little Cash Aaron Bowyer finally decided to arrive. And as surreal as the experience was at Kauffman Stadium that night, things may have been even more chaotic in the delivery room.

''I was high-fiving people,'' he said. ''I was kind of pushing the doctor out of the way at one point, trying to get a better view of the little guy coming into the world. The nurses were trying to hold me back - `You can't get that close!' - and I'm saying, `Get the hell out of the way!'

''But it was awesome,'' Bowyer said, breaking into a grin.

Throw in his Chiefs beating up Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Monday night, and the Sprint Cup Series shifting to his home track at Kansas Speedway this weekend, and just about everything is awesome for the Kansas native these days.

Well, except for that little issue with the Chase.

Bowyer failed to qualify for NASCAR's version of the playoffs, which means he's driving for little more than pride - and his new baby boy - the rest of the season.

Even that doesn't seem to get the perpetually upbeat Bowyer down, though. Even though he's hardly gotten a wink of sleep, something all new dads can relate to, Bowyer was full of pep when he walked into the Kansas Speedway media center on Friday.

Maybe he was just hopped up on 5-Hour Energy, his car's title sponsor.

''I'm like that little kid, you get that last ounce of energy so you go like hell until you have no more,'' he said. ''What a wild experience. All your friends, family, peers warn you and tell you it's going to change your life, and you say, `No way.' And all of a sudden that little gremlin comes out and you say, `Oh my God. This is real.'''

Just then, Bowyer's cellphone went off.

''Hold on,'' he said, checking the caller ID before switching it off when he realized it wasn't his wife, Lorra, or anybody else back at the homestand.

''You got to have that thing on the hammer when you have a baby,'' he said. ''It's like DEFCON-5 when you hear your phone ringing. It's like, `Oh, damn, what have I done now?'''

After a spectacular season two years ago, when Bowyer won three times and finished second to Jimmie Johnson in the Chase, things haven't gone nearly as well. He was winless last season and has yet to reach Victory Lane this season, finishing in the top five just four times.

Bowyer refuses to make excuses, though he has plenty of them. Having a child on the way is enough to distract anybody. But he prefers instead to look forward with optimism, pointing out that a win at Kansas Speedway would mean as much to him as a win anywhere.

After all, he began his career on the dirt at nearby Lakeside Speedway. He recalls going to the first race at Kansas Speedway in 2001 as a fan. He still heads home to Emporia, Kansas, on a regular basis, hanging out with friends and checking in on his auto dealership.

So yes, winning at Kansas would highlight a pretty great year, the Chase notwithstanding.

''Look at the story line Kansas City has had this week,'' Bowyer said. ''If some way a Kansas driver could win this race that would be unbelievable.''

Still, not quite as unbelievable as becoming a father. Naturally, Bowyer has already been receiving plenty of advice from his fellow drivers.

''Without wanting to, you start racing for a little bit of a different cause,'' said Johnson, who has two daughters. ''You want your children to experience the success with you, and there's also the honesty of their questions - `Daddy, you haven't won in a while.'''

Dale Earnhardt Jr. may not know what it's like from Bowyer's perspective yet, but he can surely offer advice to young Chase some day on what it's like to be the son of a driver.

''If he's anything like Clint, he'll be OK,'' Earnhardt said. ''Clint's a good guy, a great friend. I have a lot of fun with him and I don't think that will change.''

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