2009 Ride: No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevy
2009 Primary Sponsors: General Mills/Cheerios (21 races), BB&T (11 races), The Hartford (3 races), Prilosec OTC (1 race)
2009 Owner: Richard Childress
2009 Crew Chief: Shane Wilson
2009 Stats: 36 starts, 0 wins, 4 top fives, 16 top 10s, 1 DNF, 15th in points
Best Finish: 2nd – Las Vegas
Average Finish: 14.9
High Point: Viva Las Vegas! Oh, so close. Denied the win with only 16 laps to go, it still had to feel good for the newly created No. 33 team to be able to smell victory lane en route to that runner-up finish.
Low Point: The announcement was made at the end of the 2008 season that Clint Bowyer’s No. 07 team, not just the number, but the team, would be handed over to the talent of Casey Mears. Bowyer was destined to take up the reins for the newly created No. 33, and until shady deals were completed behind the big green curtain, it was doubtful whether his car would even start the 2009 season inside the Top 35 in owner points. Fortunately, the required paperwork appeared for that to happen, giving Bowyer the 2008 No. 01 points – and the five-race cushion everyone covets. Still, the amount of soul searching required to find the commitment to fight for what Bowyer had already accomplished, with Chase appearances in both ’07 and ’08, surely left this driver struggling to toe the company line and believe that this shuffle was for the good of everybody involved at RCR.
Summary: Like his quiet PR persona, Bowyer managed to string a season together that neither condemned his team to the depths of the point standings nor the pinnacle of success. Considering the season-long drama that encompassed the RCR stable… this was quite a feat.
RCR was riding high at the end of the 2008 season, with Kevin Harvick, Bowyer and Jeff Burton finishing 4-5-6 in the points standings. One could understand why the championship stable would endeavor to expand to four Cup teams. However, by the time the wheels were in motion for this daring maneuver, the nation’s economy was taking a spin down the toilet.
One-by-one, RCR watched first General Motors file for bankruptcy, followed by an exodus of sponsors. By the end of summer, not only were all four Childress Chevys out of the Chase, but it looked like some of the teams would not return for the 2010 season.
Through all of this controversy, Bowyer maintained a consistent, if less than Broadway-worthy performance level. His second-place finish at Vegas was followed just a few weeks later with a fifth at Martinsville. However, just when you’ve got a decent season started, there’s always Talladega in April to ruin your mood. The lap 7 Big One did enough damage to effectively end Bowyer’s day… although he did return to log just one more lap at the end of the race, gaining precious points.
Unfortunately, the No. 33 was not destined to see the top 10 for another month with 37th and 36th-place finishes at Darlington and Charlotte, respectively. However, summer weather was on the way, and with it came a string of strong finishes. Dover, Pocono, Michigan, Sonoma, Chicago and the Glen all netted top-12 runs, with a third for the second Pocono race a summer highlight. But it just wasn’t enough to garner the coveted 12th spot for the 2009 Chase – for Clint or for any RCR machine.
With the advent of the Chase, RCR began to address their company-wide performance issues with a shuffling of management. By the end of the season, all four cars could be seen skirmishing in the lead pack, inferring that Richard Childress still knows how to run a strong racing stable when he puts his mind to it. And even though teammate Harvick has had some less than pleasant things to say about RCR this year, Bowyer maintained his low-profile, happy-to-be-here attitude.
Off-Track News: At Kansas, Kansas native Bowyer and Missouri native Carl Edwards entered into a friendly competition on the track. In conjunction with Victory Junction and Sprint, the pair participated in a Sprint Stateline competition. Sprint agreed to present a $100,000 check in the name of which driver finished first in the Price Chopper 400. A second check for $25,000 would be made in the name of the runner-up. All monies were donated to the new Victory Junction Camp to be located in Wyandotte County, Kansas. Carl may have won the day, with a 10th-place finish, but nobody truly lost in this deal.
In March at Bristol Motor Speedway, Bowyer joined other RealTree drivers, Harvick, Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr., as honorary pit crew members for RealTree’s President and Founder, Bill Jordon, in the Celebrity/Legends Event. Jordon qualified the late model car that Terry Labonte competed in later that evening.
Team Ranking: 1st. During a down year for RCR, it was the new team of Bowyer’s that outshined his teammates driving the No. 07, No. 29 and No. 31.
2010 Outlook: All of the right parts are still in place for Bowyer for next year. His crew chief, Shane Wilson, and major sponsor General Mills and BB&T are all on board for 2010. Considering that Bowyer has been the most consistent performer in the RCR stable over the past few years, Clint should not be worrying about having a car to drive in the new season.
However, the rumors of shutting shops down and the very real loss of major sponsor dollars leave no good feelings behind for Childress. If the money is there, RCR will be ready to rumble… but if not, don’t put your money on the No. 33.
Stats of the Year: Every stat for Bowyer declined in 2009 compared to 2008. It’s best not to dwell.
2006 Frontstretch Grade: B-
2007 Grade: A
2008 Grade: A
2009 Grade: B-