MWR Hopes Bowyer Is Just What It Needs
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Andy Graves was working at Hendrick Motorsports back in the early 1990s. It was a team that was pretty darn good in those days. But there might of have been something that was missing something. Like, one piece. Perhaps on the leadership front.
It all changed the day Hendrick signed veteran pro wheelman Terry Labonte to to drive, Graves, now a vice president at Toyota Racing Development, said. Changed for the much better.
On Friday afternoon, shortly after it was officially announced the Clint Bowyer would be driving Toyotas for Michael Waltrip Racing next season, Graves said yes, the former Nationwide Series champion and multi-race winning driver for Richard Childress Racing could be exactly what MWR needs to take the next step up.
Just what the team needs in a Terry Labonte kind of way.
Clearly that is what everybody at MWR, Toyota and new sponsor 5-Hour Energy is hoping in hiring a driver whom many firmly believe is one of the top wheelmen in the garages. They are hoping that Bowyer will help the team reach the Chase next season and then do well once in those playoffs.
Bowyer sounds optimistic about doing all of that.
“I see a young, aggressive team,” he said. “Great backing with Toyota behind them in a down market. I see a young, energetic sponsor in the same boat. Both of them are pushing forward. They’re spending. I
see this as an opportunity to catch up, period. I think that there’s no question MWR has done a great job with marketing for their sponsors and keeping sponsors. Better than anybody in the garage area.
“I see their performance improving week in and week out, so I had to work my butt off to make sure I was on top of them before I walked into this deal here. I just see this as a wonderful opportunity for me to prove myself to everybody. I mean, when you go into RCR (Richard Childress Racing) that has already won many championships and had the success Richard’s (Childress) had, you’re just kind of another guy there. If we can go on and put them in the Chase and continue to move forward with MWR, you’re going to build your brand even better.”
Bowyer, it was announced, will drive the No. 15 Cup car for MWR next season. He will become a third driver in the team’s Cup stable of drivers.
“The Chase was the number one thing on our radar screen when we started this year,” team owner Michael Waltrip said during a press conference at Kansas Speedway. “We felt like we had built our company. We had won races the last couple of years and we built our organization to a point where we could contend for Chase spots. Toyota really stepped up in 2011 with our engines. We’ve been very fortunate with the way they have performed. We just didn’t get the job done.”
Bowyer had spent his entire NASCAR career with Richard Childress Racing after being discovered by the team owner while Bowyer was working in a body shop in his hometown of Emporia, Kan.
He got his first Cup start for RCR in 2005. He went on to win four times and earn berths for three post-season Chases, including last year’s.
He was do to become a free agent after the current season. About three months ago, he said, he was approached by 5-Hour Energy about being his sponsor in 2012.
Bowyer said he approached RCR about staying with that team with 5-Hour as his primary sponsor but no deal could be worked out.
Asked about that Friday, Bowyer said, “We’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to talk about the future and it just didn’t work out. It was a shame. Like Isaid, I owe a great deal to Richard (Richard). It was just a few miles down the road I was standing in a body shop when thatman called me. I will never forget that day and I owe a lot to him for that, but I also owe him this opportunity as well.”
As it stands, RCR’s lineup next season will consist of Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard. Also, presumably, waiting in the wings is Austin Dillon, Childress’ grandson who has been impressive in the Camping World Trucks Series.
MWR was more than willing to put Bowyer in one of its rides and on Friday, the deal became official.
“I think timing is everything,” Bowyer said. “It’s so weird how all of this has happened. The minute one door closes, it’s like somebody is looking after you and just kind of putting me on this path. As one door would close the other one would open and it was almost like the very next step. It didn’t matter who you were talking to, there was a closed door and an opened door and it just kind of led to this. I truly feel like this is where I’m supposed to be and I think that is a great thing.”
MWR’s current drivers are David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr. Neither driver made this year’s Chase and neither has won a race this year.
Both have shown speed at times over the past couple years but have not been able to become consistently competitive in Cup.
Waltrip was asked if he has a pecking order at MWR and if so, does Bowyer now move to the top of that order.
“We have plates in the fab shop and a tractor trailer comes in the back gate and unloads metal and they shoot cars out the other end and those cars are built for each one of the teams,” Waltrip said. “It’s up to Clint (Bowyer), his crew chief and his guys to tune that car and let him go out on the race track and do what he’s done so well the last few years. There just isn’t any reason for it. We are very passionate about NAPA and Martin (Truex Jr.), and the same way about Aaron’s and David (Reutimann). And, we’ll have that same excitement and passion for Clint. You’ve got great teams and great assets and they all push together and hopefully success comes out the other end.”
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments