CONCORD, NC -- For all intents and purposes, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer have buried the hatchet—and both drivers' backs remained intact during the process.
After an altercation on the track in last Saturday’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race spilled over to pit road--with Bowyer punching Newman while he was still sitting in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford—the drivers were summoned to the NASCAR hauler following the event.
Prior to qualifying for the 60th running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday, the competitors appeared together at fellow sponsor Bass Pro Shops.
Newman was surprised that Bowyer showed up sans helmet.
“I think there was a point where he thought he might need one,” Newman said. “But we’re good. We’re fine. As good as two drivers are after a situation like that. I don’t know if you would say that’s ‘good,’ but it’s good that we had a chance to talk.
“We were there for the fans, not each other. It was good to clear the air. It is what it is. It’s the past. It’s just something that you always remember. You learn about somebody in a situation like that. I try to race everybody the same way—and that’s hard because that’s what I get paid to do.
“I try to give and take when I can, but the way it works anymore with stage points—and especially in the All-Star Race, you don't give and take. You just take.”
Newman qualified 18th on Thursday. Bowyer posted the eighth quickest time—.122-seconds behind pole winner William Byron.
Bowyer doesn’t expect retaliation from Newman. With the driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford currently in a contract year, an ongoing rivalry with Newman wouldn’t be in his best interest. Bowyer is currently ninth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup standings nearing the halfway mark of the regular season. His last win came at Michigan almost one year ago.
On the bright side, the drivers’ appearance at the local Bass Pro Shops was a resounding success.
“We sat down next to each other and took care of business for our fans,” Bowyer said. “Not just our fans, but fans of Bass Pro Shops. That’s what this business is all about. Things happen on the race track, but you have to be able to shut things off and take care of business, and I think we both did that.
“That was the best-attended autograph session that I have had at Bass Pro Shops in a long, long time.”
As for Bowyer’s boss, Tony Stewart, calling out his driver for wearing a helmet during the row?
“I just texted him and said, ‘Hey, your phone might be busy this week,’ but as far as the helmet thing goes, when you’re that pissed off, let me tell you something, I’m not sure I even knew I had a helmet on my head,” Bowyer said. “I know I was hoping that he (Newman) didn’t. That’s not something to be proud of. I have children. I have a family. I don’t condone stuff like that, I don’t like doing stuff like that. I don’t believe in it, but it happened, right?
“This is passion. This is my job. This is my way of life. When something gets dangerous like that, yeah, it’s scary and you fight back. It’s not the same scenario as an altercation on the race track. That was after the fact. You’re literally winding down, shutting things off and all hell breaks loose. We’ve talked about it. We have an understanding, and we’ll be fine.”