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2-Headed Monster: Should Stewart-Haas Racing Keep Clint Bowyer?

At the end of 2019, Clint Bowyer‘s contract with Stewart-Haas Racing expires. He’s spent the last three seasons with the team, and while the pair have produced two wins together, snapping Bowyer’s six-year winless streak last year, the No. 14 hasn’t been anywhere close to winning a championship.

With budding talents Cole Custer and Chase Briscoe waiting in the wings at SHR, the question arises: Should the team bring Bowyer back in 2020? Mark Kristl and Michael Massie debate.

Bye Bye Bowyer

With Bowyer’s contract with the team ending after this season, Stewart-Haas Racing shouldn’t re-sign him for 2020.

The organization hasn’t won a race so far this Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and Bowyer is in 12th place in the point standings.

This year, Bowyer has struggled. He has failed to finish on the lead lap in five of the 15 races. That’s one-third of races where he hasn’t been on the lead lap. For a winning organization like SHR, those numbers are unacceptable.

Furthermore, Bowyer has only led 42 laps, a far cry from his 490 led laps in 2018. He has zero playoff points so far, meaning he hasn’t even raced upfront early in races. SHR co-owner Tony Stewart expects better.

This past weekend at Michigan International Speedway, Bowyer crashed out of the race and voiced his displeasure about the racing action afterward.

Regardless of what changes NASCAR makes to the rules package for next season, Bowyers’ frustrations revealed he isn’t adapting well to the package. In order to be a successful Cup Series driver, one must keep up with the times. Bowyer has not.

Bowyer just turned 40 years old. He hasn’t finished inside the top 10 in the point standings in the Cup Series since 2013, well before his SHR days. He is past his prime and he doesn’t bring much sponsorship.

SHR must look toward its future, and a struggling 40-year-old driver who doesn’t bring much money isn’t exactly a wise choice.  This is why Bowyer should not be a part of SHR in 2020.

And if SHR declines to re-sign Bowyer for 2020, he will still find a ride in the Cup Series next year. He’s a seasoned veteran who likes to have fun, and has won 10 races. He would be a perfect fit for Front Row Motorsports where he could mentor young Matt Tifft and promote the teams’ sponsors on social media. Plus, he is more talented than Michael McDowell and David Ragan.

Another reason SHR also shouldn’t re-sign Bowyer is because they have his replacement waiting in the Xfinity Series in Cole Custer.  Custer is 21 years old, and the son of SHR executive Joe Custer.

The younger Custer is also pretty talented. In 2018, he made the Xfinity Series’ Championship 4 round, and he ultimately finished second in the point standings. He has won five career Xfinity races, three coming this season. He has led at least 300 laps in each of his three NXS seasons. Custer is ready to compete in the Cup Series.

Bowyer has good equipment, good teammates and a good team surrounding him. So why can’t he emerge as a regular threat to win races? He won two races last season, but it had been nearly six years since his most recent victory before then.

SHR demands that its drivers race upfront and contend for wins on a frequent basis. Bowyer has not accomplished that, and he doesn’t appear to be headed in that direction. If Custer continues his current trajectory, SHR would be foolish not to promote him into the Cup Series as the driver of its No. 14 Ford. -Mark Kristl

Can’t Have Enough Bowyer

Stewart-Haas Racing shouldn’t give up on Bowyer just yet.

Yes, he has struggled mightily this season and hasn’t been a championship threat in his two and a half years with the team. Yes, Custer absolutely deserves one of the team’s Cup rides next year. But not the No. 14.

SHR has yet to visit victory lane this season — and that’s a stable that includes Kevin Harvick — so clearly they’ve fallen a little behind Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske. But Bowyer has still been ultra competitive. Yes, he failed to finish on the lead lap in five races, crashing out of two and overheating in one. But in most of those instances, Bowyer was trying to make something happen.

In the Daytona 500 for example, Bowyer was doing everything he could to try to win the race. He had a huge head of steam and took a gamble to try to clear himself in front of McDowell. He didn’t quite have the No. 34 clear and caused a huge wreck as a result.

If I’m a team owner, then, of course, I’m mad that Bowyer tore up the equipment, but I’m happy to see that he’s going for the win. He’s not content riding in the top five. That hunger for victory would be enough for me to keep him around.

Despite the bad results, Bowyer still has five top fives and eight top 10s. So he’s been in the top five in one-third of the races. A washed-up driver certainly doesn’t do that. Harvick likewise has five top fives so far this season. If you’re putting up stats that match Harvick, then you deserve to keep your job a little while longer.

Whereas the other two SHR drivers, Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola, have a combined three top fives. Bowyer has more top 10s than Suarez and just as many as Almirola. In order to win, a driver first has to consistently run up front, and it sounds like Bowyer is one of the top cars far more than Suarez and Almirola.

It’s been a year since he last won, but Bowyer still won two races last year a number that matches Almirola’s career total and is two more than Suarez has in his three-year career.

What makes Almirola and Suarez bigger commodities is they have sponsors that are dedicated to them. Almirola has Smithfield Foods, and Suarez has Arris, while Bowyer has no sponsors of his own. Suarez is also a free agent at the end of the season, but if Arris wants to continue to back him then I couldn’t imagine SHR letting him go after just one season.

But as for Almirola, Smithfield’s contract is up at the end of the year as well. He finished fifth in points and won at Talladega Superspeedway last year, but Almirola hasn’t proved to be a dominant driver. Should Smithfield choose to no longer support him or want a different driver in its new deal, then SHR should keep Bowyer over Almirola and put Custer in the No. 10.

Almirola is consistent, but I can’t picture him winning tons of races and competing for championships. He’s amazing at superspeedways, but Bowyer has two superspeedway races as well. Plus, he’s won at every other type of racetrack. Bowyer should’ve been the 2012 Cup champion (Jeff Gordon intentionally wrecked him in the penultimate race to prevent him from doing so), and that talent is still in there.

Just because he’s 40 years old, doesn’t mean Bowyer is washed up. Statistically, a driver doesn’t hit their prime until 38 or 39 years old. Based on that, Bowyer should have a few more years of talent up his sleeve. Once SHR finds the speed this year, he’ll be back in victory lane before we know it.

Plus, why get rid of a guy this fun? –Michael Massie

 

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About Mark Kristl

Mark Kristl
Mark joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is a proud University of Dayton alum who also writes about NASCAR for Beyond the Flag. He also writes about TV shows & movies for Hidden Remote. When he's not writing, he's cheering on his beloved Cubbies, watching college football, & rooting for his Dayton Flyers.

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13 comments

  1. Avatar

    As nice and funny as Mikey Waltrip. Problem is that he is about as talented of a driver as Mikey, as well! Bump Biwyer to trucks & steal Kyle Larson for a six year contract!!!

  2. Avatar

    Bowyer has to put up or shut up. I never thought he was a top ranked driver, gets by mostly on his personality. It would be no loss if he was let go. There is a lot of young talent out there looking for a home, though I don’t believe Custer is going to be a magic bullet either, it’s taken him too long in Xfinity to start being a regular threat to win. Chris Bell he is not.

  3. Avatar

    in today’s NASCAR, does it even really matter what the team wants to do?

    This is all driven by sponsor dollars anymore. Have a sponsor = get a ride- whether you have the talent or not. Don’t have a sponsor? See ya…

    • Avatar

      You’re right, but—-
      Wasn’t it the teams insatiable need/desire for more and more money which started that trend. Imagine what it would be like if they weren’t getting at least a cut of the TV money.

      • Avatar

        you’re absolutely not wrong.

        • Avatar

          So I have not seen anything that bans him from the Nascar…. I think he should be kicked out……..
          it reminds me of the Pro football player that supposedly raped.

          So, I am an avid race fan but if they allow “people” to beat up on ANYONE….

          then there goes my respect.

          Of course I am female that has worked 12 hours today, perhaps I am not informed.

          We will see. I do not think the female race fans will sit still
          for abuse.

  4. Avatar

    It all depends on the $$$ and the relative cost of his replacement. Imagine that.

    • Avatar

      Well, I am disappointed that Tony Stewart hasn’t been at the tracks enough this year. I really think he needs to be present a lot more.

  5. Avatar

    I would not be surprised if FoxSports decides to offer Bowyer the booth seat replacing Darrell Waltrip. Clint has experience in the TV booth and seems reasonably competent as a talking head. In spite of his sponsorship woes, he is popular with most of the fans with his goofy, country-boy persona.

    As for Cole Custer, he will obviously cost much less than Bowyer in terms of salary and is running well enough in the X-Series to warrant a promotion to Cup.

  6. Avatar

    After he wrecked in the race I was wondering if that “F” on his hat really stood for Ford.

  7. Avatar

    Nobody interested in sponsoring Bowyer means everything in today’s NASCAR world. Sponsors not rushing to put up big money for a guy of dubious character and being 40 years old and not winning races. It’s much easier to find sponsorship for an exciting up and coming 21 year old. Someone is paying Bowyers big salary, and it’s not a sponsor. SHR is a business, and a business does not run with money going out for an employee and none coming in for him. See ya Clint.

  8. Avatar

    Sorry I still have a bad taste in my mouth years after his “itch” that eventually cost dozens of people at MWR their jobs.

    • Avatar

      You beat me to it rg72. I was going to say that they might keep him because he’s a team player and willing to take a spin if it helps the organization (at least in the short run).

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