The Frontstretch: Bowyer's Proposed Move To MWR Fraught With Personal Peril by Danny Peters -- Tuesday October 4, 2011

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Bowyer's Proposed Move To MWR Fraught With Personal Peril

The Yellow Stripe · Danny Peters · Tuesday October 4, 2011


This Friday afternoon, NASCAR’s consummate pitchman and ultimate shill Michael Waltrip will address the press corps to make the announcement that Clint Bowyer will be joining Michael Waltrip Racing – expanding the team from two to three drivers for the 2012 Sprint Cup season and beyond.

Clint Bowyer’s imminent move to MWR might not be all that Michael Waltrip will crack it up to be.

Waltrip will smile a lot, crack some lame quips and generally pump up the assembled crowd as to why this move is a great one for his team, which he began almost a decade ago but only went full-time with in 2007 thanks to factory support from then-newbie manufacturer Toyota. (For the record, Jerry Nadeau drove the Aaron’s-sponsored Michael Waltrip machine to a 37th-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway, completing the organization’s first race back in June, 2002.) Waltrip will no doubt wax lyrical about the revamped driver lineup, with Bowyer joining Martin Truex, Jr. and the ever amiable David Reutimann for what will be a sixth straight season of full-time competition at the sport’s highest echelon for MWR.

And on one level Mikey would be, for once, absolutely right. Clint Bowyer is an accomplished driver with a solid history of success at the Sprint Cup level. In fact, if you combine the career statistics of Reutimann (164 races) and Truex (218 races), Bowyer’s numbers achieved in significantly fewer events – 210, to be precise – are better. Bowyer has more wins, more top 5’s, more top 10’s, and more laps led not to mention a third-place overall finish (2007), a fifth-place (2008) and a tenth-place effort (2010) in the Chase standings. Compare that to MWR itself, which hasn’t made the Chase once during its entire existence and you can see why they thought this guy would be a great catch. And although it’s a frivolous, flippant point to make Bowyer also crossed the finish line of the epic 2007 Daytona 500 on his roof and on fire. I don’t care who you are; that’s badass on anyone’s personal highlight reel.

Back to the point at hand… Bowyer’s move to MWR is at best, one of expediency. Out of contract at season’s end, as 2011 progressed Bowyer’s fate had looked increasingly unlikely to lie with the Richard Childress Racing organization – the only team he has ever raced for at the Cup level. With sponsorship also an issue, free agents such as Mark Martin and Brian Vickers on the market, the ever-improving grandson of the team owner, Austin Dillon, and stalled contract talks, Bowyer’s departure became something of a foregone conclusion. Nonetheless, less than a month ago Childress was still speaking of the possibility of Bowyer staying: a myth that clearly has not materialized into longshot reality.

RCR veteran and longtime teammate Kevin Harvick, in fact, has already released a quote recognizing the Bowyer-Childress divorce is but a mere formality at this point.

“I think Clint was a good asset for us because he was competitive on a weekly basis, so he brings something to the table,” said Harvick. “I’ve been around Clint since 2004 or 2005. He’s a good friend of mine and we’ve been through a lot together, so it’s not something [Bowyer’s impending departure] that I look at that’s real positive.”

And in many ways, this last year has been anything but positive for the Emporia, Kansas native. Much of it can be traced back to the first Chase race of last year when Bowyer eviscerated the field, leading 177 of 300 laps, on the way to a dominant victory. But the car failed post-race inspection and Bowyer was docked 150 points, his title tilt tossed away just when it looked as if it would bloom. The penalty stood through multiple appeals, even after a famous press conference when Bowyer brandished a quarter to demonstrate how minute the infraction, indeed actually was. A victory at Talladega – his fourth career win – in race seven of the Chase was a mere consolation prize by comparison, the last highlight of a bumpy ending where the No. 33 never quite fully recovered. This year, they’ve just never strung the good performances together and as a result, Bowyer missed the Chase for a second time in three years.

As much as Bowyer will miss RCR, some make the argument a new start might also be just what he needs. MWR has suffered through a difficult year in 2010, but future success is not out of the question by any stretch of the imagination. Teams take time to build, and Bowyer might be signing up at just the right moment. Of course, that’s the optimistic view – as NASCAR is a sport where you just have to keep looking forward – but the chances are leaving RCR might just signal the last time that Bowyer will drive a machine capable of winning a championship. That’s not to say MWR won’t win a Cup title one day; it just doesn’t look like it’s coming anytime soon. This stat is all you need to know: Truex, Reutimann, and JTG-allied Bobby Labonte combine for just one more top-10 finish (12) than Bowyer has this season (11) during one of the worst years of his career for RCR.

I’ll leave the last word to RCR team principal Richard Childress, who noted, “For us, it just didn’t seem that we could get everything worked out” while the negotiations were ongoing but seemed destined for Bowyer heading straight for that exit door. “We just… Clint’s still a good friend. I want the best for him.”

Trouble is, the chances are the best bet for Bowyer was staying put with RCR.

Two quick points to finish, starting with Ed Carpenter’s heartwarming victory at Kentucky in the penultimate race of the IndyCar season. Not only was it a maiden win for Carpenter, who dueled wheel-to-wheel with three-time champion Dario Franchitti across the final, frenetic laps, the victory also secured an inaugural first race triumph for Sarah Fisher and Sarah Fisher Racing. Congratulations to all involved on an incredible day for Fisher – one of the true open-wheel stalwarts.

And finally, what an unbelievable save by A.J. Allmendinger in the early laps at Dover this past weekend. What I like about this moment is that it shows you just how good these drivers are and how infinitesimal the margins are in NASCAR. Had he slammed the wall or been hit by oncoming traffic, A.J.’s day would have gone downhill fast. As it was, he recovered and secured a credible seventh-place finish for a seventh top 10 on the season with resurgent Richard Petty Motorsports.

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Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
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Bill B
10/04/2011 09:04 AM

I haven’t been following this story that closely but I thought I heard that some of this boils down to Bowyer’s unwillingness to take a pay cut in light of the current economics. I look back at Dale Jarrett who “took the money” and how terrible his career ended and I can’t see this working out much better for Bowyer. Well, at least he’ll be rich. There’s a lot to be said for that.

10/04/2011 11:44 AM

Welcome to obscurity Clint.

Ghost of Curtis Turner
10/04/2011 11:59 AM

Well you have to feel bad for Clint to be in a position to have to go to a team like MWR. Maybe he can keep afloat for a season or 2 and get picked up by a better team down the road…but unfortunately history is not on his side.

Sue Rarick
10/04/2011 12:06 PM

I think it will be a good move for Clint. All the talk about a champion contending team RCR is ….but it’s last championship was in 1996…that’s a long time between drinks.
With Austin moving up, how long before Clint would have moved even further down the RCR ladder?
MWR is a from scratch built up team and RCR took 10 years of full time running before it got it’s first wins (2 by Ricky Rudd). So you are right Clint is joining MWR at the right time.

10/04/2011 12:13 PM

Another guy who thought that he could command yesterday’s money in todays market.
Doomed to be a highly paid mid to back packer now. The few good rides will go to the younger, more photogenic guys who can bring a sponsor along.
Theres a lesson here for those who can see it.

Bill B
10/04/2011 12:22 PM

While making the chase doesn’t mean you are a championship caliber team, it does mean that you have a shot of the championship.
Yes, RCR hasn’t won a championship since 1996 but they have placed their drivers in the chase to, at least, contend for a championship on paper. I forget, how many times has a MWR driver been in the chase? Of course, maybe Clint is that good and that’s all MWR needs. I haven’t seen it personally, but it’s possible.

10/04/2011 12:28 PM

Clint needed to talk to Jarrett (Ol’ Fat Wallet, according to Jimmy Spencer-LMAO!) before he signed-on-the-dotted-line.

I can still remember the POS-Racing/Motormouth Motorsports Dog & Pony Show, in May of 2006 when POS trotted-out Ol’ Fat Wallet and both stated he was “turning-JAPanese!” Ol’ Fat Wallet and POS would also be “stealing” the UPS sponsorship for Motormouth Motorsports! The best thing for the former fans of that UPS-88 was when my idol, Edsel Ford threw “Fat-Wallet” out of Ford Racing for the rest of that 2006 season.

“My-Fav. POS-Critic” will finish this season a very…..lame-duck.

My prediction is a finish of around 17th or 18th, for next season, if he is lucky! Those rides from POS-Racing/Motormouth Motorsports cannot run very well in the later part of a race, as they all develope handling-issues, as the race wears-on to the finish. Look at Marty’s run on Sunday, with his fall from the poll, no-less. Not the first time this has ever happened to either the #00 or the #56. If not for this issue, both “overdrive” and either blow-up or wreck!

You would have thought all of that money from “The Land of the Risin’-Sun”, TuRD and those hot-shot F-1 engineers from England could have figured out that “issue”, by now. Oh, I forgot, all of those F-1 guys……“split”, didn’t they?

A pretty poor move for Bowyer!

10/04/2011 12:39 PM

Sue…..I don’t think there will ever be a……“right-time”…..over at that converted bowling alley/cinema complex in Cornelius.

Wall-Banger Kool-Aid for you?

10/04/2011 03:02 PM

Last week I had Truex in my picks..With 3 hr’s to race time I dumped him (For Newman HA HA) I just thought that no matter what the equipment won’t hold up..Sorta right

The Mad Man
10/04/2011 04:31 PM

Bowyer will fade into oblivion at Mikey’s Nary-a-win Ranch and may even become the punchline of some jokes just like his team owner. He’d have better off staying at RCR where he had a chance to finish in the Top 10 more often than he will next season.

10/04/2011 06:52 PM

Didn’t Clint call Mikey an idiot (or something similar) during a race a few years back?

10/04/2011 09:22 PM

@Wingscars6970, Clint called MW the worst driver in nascar. I think he said last week that MW was the best owner in nascar. LOL

zhills fan
10/05/2011 06:15 AM

Don’t knock Clint yet, this just may be the best thing to happen to MWR and Clint both. Afterall RCR is just sitting up for his grandson’s ride in the cup series.

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