[media-credit name=”Brian Douglas” align=”alignright” width=”230″][/media-credit]Halfway through the first season with his new Michael Waltrip Racing team, Clint Bowyer admits that he had some hesitancy in signing with them.
Leaving Richard Childress Racing, the only home he’d ever known, and moving on from the owner who had discovered him, Bowyer wasn’t sure that MWR could make him a winner. After all, MWR had only two career wins under their belt prior to 2012 and had never placed a driver in the Chase.
Bowyer on the other hand was becoming quite the frequenter to Victory Lane and had contended for the championship. But MWR showed Bowyer that big things were coming, they had a plan in place to get better and that the company’s hard work was going to begin paying off.
When Scott Miller left RCR and headed to MWR that was the swaying point for Bowyer, he followed suit. Now the No. 15 5-Hour ENERGY Toyota is a legitimate contender every weekend. Further solidified by a surprising win, simply because it came on a road course, in Sonoma.
The win, according to Bowyer, did wonders for the shop. And it was a long time coming, too.
“Their first win in a long time. They’ve made a huge investment and commitment to this sport, especially in the last year,” said Bowyer on Tuesday after Daytona. “They’ve brought on two new drivers. They’ve expanded in a situation that most teams are pulling back. They’ve spent more dollars and expanded, made a big commitment.
“So to see that pay off for them was very, very gratifying. For me, going to a new team with so many unknowns and concerns, to get all that put to bed early in the season and run well and to get that win was just huge. That’s being said, as a racer, crashing last weekend in Daytona, had a poor finish, fell back a couple of spots in the points, and now I’m back on the worry train again. It’s just the way racing is. It’s a very humbling sport.”
Bowyer sits 10th in points heading into New Hampshire. He’s a two-time winner at the magic mile and racing there gives him plenty of confidence. Good thing, since the last two weeks have been far from the success he and his team experienced the first half of the season.
He’s hoping that Sunday will be a step back in the right direction toward making the Chase. Maybe he’ll even win again, something that would be huge.
“Usually I win later in the year,” said Bowyer. “So to have that victory early, relatively early in the season for me was cool, really fun, and it changes expectations. Now I feel like we can make this Chase. I feel like we can compete in this Chase and be a top 5 team within the Chase.
“I think as competitive as this sport is right now, if you’re a top 5 team you’re going to have a shot at a championship.”
Expectations are a big thing for both Bowyer and MWR. This isn’t a company or team who were predicted to win many races or make the Chase. Now Bowyer and teammate Martin Truex sit inside the top 10 in points. Mark Martin and Brian Vickers, running a limited schedule with MWR, have also contended for wins.
“I think we’ve exceeded all expectations,” Bowyer said. “That’s MWR across the board. That’s not because I didn’t think that they were capable or anything else. But it’s off the simple facts that they’ve never produced these kind of results before.”
There’s still another half of the season to go, but Bowyer’s sitting pretty. Not bad for a team that almost didn’t make this far. Or a driver who had no idea what was going to happen to him this time one year ago.
“Very proud and excited to be a part of it. This is a new chapter in my book so to make it a good one here so far this season has been gratifying and a lot of fun.”