Bowyer Knows It's Time to Go
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on February 9, 2014 | 11:00 A.M. EST
Clint Bowyer has scored more top-five and top-10 finishes the past two years than any other time in his Sprint Cup career. (Photo: Getty Images)
Clint Bowyer enters the final season of his contract with Michael Waltrip Racing hoping to return to 2012 form.
He finished second in the points that season and won three races, leading many to believe 2013 would be as strong a year. Instead, Bowyer went winless and finished seventh in the points. That step back motivates Bowyer for this season.
“I need to prove myself not only to myself and to (the media) but everybody else,’’ Bowyer said. “We didn’t win a race last year. That sucked.’’
A free agent at the end of the season, the 34-year-old Bowyer knows this could be a key point in his career.
“Everybody wants to talk about pressure,’’ Bowyer said. “It’s contract time again. I’ve got to perform. You’ve got to build your brand as stout as you can. Every year people are trying to protect their rides, look for other ones or whatever the case may be. That’s nerve-racking time.’’
Unless NASCAR changes its policy on organizations having no more than four teams - don’t hold your breath - it would seem that Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports would not be options for Bowyer.
Stewart-Haas Racing added Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick in the offseason to a stable that includes co-owner Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick. Hendrick Motorsports does not have any openings with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all signed through at least 2015.
Still, there are plenty of other teams. If any sponsors align with Bowyer, that could make it easier for him to move to another team - as he did in going from Richard Childress Racing to MWR before the 2012 season. Of course, Bowyer could remain at Michael Waltrip Racing where his 20 top-five and 42 top-10 finishes are more than he’s had in any other two-year period in Cup.
“As far as I’m concerned, we’ve got a great platform, we’ve got great sponsors,’’ Bowyer said of MWR. “I want to be here.’’
Another strong season will make it easy for him to stay. Of course, a strong season will increase his value with other teams.
For now, his focus is on this season.
He could be one to watch with the new Chase format. If Bowyer makes it to Homestead-Miami Speedway with a chance to win the championship, he could be the favorite. Bowyer’s average finish the past three years at that track is 4.3 - best among any of the drivers in last year’s Chase.
He feels he can duplicate that success with few changes on his team. Crew chief Brian Pattie is back.
“We’re exactly the way we’ve been since 2012,’’ Bowyer said of his team. “A key to success is people and we need to keep all those people together.’’
The question is when this season ends, if he’ll be back with the same group at Michael Waltrip Racing or holding a new contract with another team.