2011 Ride: No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
2011 Primary Sponsors: General Mills (featuring their Cheerios, Hamburger Helper, and Wheaties brands), BB&T, Good Sam Club, American Ethanol, Ronald Reagan Presidential Celebration, Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma.
2011 Owner: Richard Childress
2011 Crew Chief: Shane Wilson
2011 Stats: 36 races, 1 win, 4 top fives, 16 top 10s, six DNFs, 13th in points
High Point: Despite running consistently earlier in the year, Bowyer’s high point came during the fall race at Talladega, where he passed teammate Jeff Burton on the final lap to score his only victory for the 2011 Sprint Cup season. Bowyer also had a second-place finish at Talladega in the spring event.
Low Point: The announcement that RCR was planning to drop one of its four Cup teams in 2012. It quickly became obvious that the No. 33 operation was on the chopping block, leaving Bowyer in search of a ride. After months of meetings, negotiations, rumors and uncertainty, Bowyer signed to drive with Michael Waltrip Racing when the Chase came to Kansas.
On-track disappointments included accidents at Daytona and Kansas in July, a wreck at Atlanta during the fall race, and when he ran out of fuel during the fall event at New Hampshire (where he was the defending champion).
Summary: Bowyer had consistent finishes during the late spring that placed him within the top 10 in points until the schedule returned for its second race at Daytona. Bowyer knocked off five-straight top-five runs, including back-to-back second-place finishes at Texas and Talladega, that set him up nicely for success heading into the Coke Zero 400. An accident in that race, though and one the following week at Kansas dropped him to 12th in the standings – just shy of the Chase.
As the summer progressed, momentum stalled and the No. 33 Chevy dropped back, sitting 13th or 14th all the way up through the regular season ending at Richmond. Falling well short of a playoff berth, Bowyer would remain there in points for the rest of the season.
Even with his come-from-behind win at Talladega in the fall race (making him the most successful Cup driver at that facility in 2011), Bowyer could do no better in points than 13th on the year. Much of his season was occupied by the need to locate a ride for 2012. Bowyer was forced to mix business with competition – a condition that may have cost him a place in the Chase.
Team Ranking: No. 2 of four at Richard Childress Racing. The best of the non-Chasers, Bowyer finished the season stronger than Brickyard 400 winner Paul Menard. His 36 races as a whole were far better than Burton’s nightmare. But Harvick? That title contender was in another time zone compared to the rest.
Off-Track News: The Kansas native won the 7th annual “Prelude to the Dream” at Eldora Speedway in June, besting track owner Tony Stewart and several other NASCAR superstars. He also broke ground for construction of the Bowyer Community Building (a $1 million multi-purpose facility) in his hometown of Emporia, Kan.
2012 Outlook: Bowyer is making a major move in 2012 as he will change teams and drive the No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. This deal covers 20 events within the 36-race schedule, so it is vital that the team come up with more backing. Given Bowyer’s popularity and talent, additional sponsorship should present itself as the season approaches. Brian Pattie, a veteran head wrench will team with Bowyer in 2012 after spending the past few seasons partnered with Juan Pablo Montoya.
2007 Frontstretch Grade: A
2008 Grade: A
2009 Grade: B-
2010 Grade: A-
2011 Grade: B
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