RCR-Bowyer Divorce Is Kind Of An Odd One
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Friday’s press conference to announce that Clint Bowyer had signed to drive for Michael Waltrip Racing beginning next season looked pretty standard. Joking driver, praise-gushing owner and optimistic sponsor.
But there was something just a little bit odd going on. The smell test on this deal produced a bit of a nose twitch.
The announcement that Bowyer was leaving the only Sprint Cup home he has ever known, the one owned and operated by Richard Childress, surprised few. It had become, basically, public knowledge.
Bowyer was in the final year of his contract with Richard Childress Racing and as talks on an extension plodded from summer into fall, and the optimism faded on both sides, it became obvious that the Kansas’ driver would be taking his considerable talents elsewhere.
And then on Friday, there was Bowyer and Michael Waltrip and the folks from sponsor 5-Hour Energy on the dais at Kansas Speedway.
Bowyer will drive a third Cup car for MWR. He will join David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr.
All seemed kosher: Top wheelman joins financially healthy team that is in need of leadership and a
basic freshening. Finally, I thought – and nothing against Reutimann and Truex – the NASCAR universe will see what MWR, with all its engineering and Toyota resources will be able to do with an elite driver behind the wheel.
Good deal for all, it appeared.
But a couple of questions have been nagging away since the announcement was made.
The first: What the heck happened at Richard Childress Racing to the point where it could not/would not re-sign Bowyer?
Apparently the answer to that question is not sponsorship.
During the press conference at Kansas, Bowyer revealed that he had been approached by 5-Hour Energy three months ago about becoming his sponsor. The first thought was to approach RCR about staying with the team and with 5-Hour on the car.
When asked when he decided to leave RCR, Bowyer said, “I’d say that day came when we went and talked to them (RCR) about the 5-Hour Energy deal and they still couldn’t put a deal together, so I said, ‘Well, alright we’ll go somewhere else.’ That’s probably ultimately led to leaving RCR.”
And apparently, the Bowyer-Childress breakup was not 100 percent amiable.
Notably absent Friday was any kind of statement from Childress about Bowyer’s departure. Yes, those kind of statements are usually trite and hollow and filled with nice sentiments even after nasty breakups. But they are also pro forma.
Bowyer was asked point blank why no deal was done with RCR. His answer seemed to be low on genuine gratuity.
“We’re not here to talk about that,” Bowyer said tersely. “We’re here to talk about the future and it just didn’t work out. It was a shame. Like I said, 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 that man 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.”
Early this spring, interestingly, RCR and Jeff Burton extended their agreement. They will be together for what is believed to be another three years.
Nothing against Burton, a great leader and quality human, but results would seem to dictate that Bowyer might be a bigger on-track asset to RCR.
Of course there are hidden factors at play in a situation like this. Factors like sponsorships and in this particular case, familial factors as Childress has two grandsons who will presumably be in an RCR Cup car at some point.
But having a three- or four-car RCR team that does not include Bowyer just seems like a bad business plan and a bad competition plan.
But the belief here is that RCR’s decision to go with Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Paul Menard and, down the road, Austin Dillion is one that makes perfect sense – for Michael Waltrip Racing.
From the sound of it, there are others – people who actually know racing – who thinks to too.
Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon was asked a couple of questions about the Bowyer-to-Waltrip deal after it was unveiled.
“I’m a big fan of Clint’s,” Gordon said. “I think he’s a really great driver. I love his attitude about how he goes about things. MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) has been running good lately so with the addition of him being there I think that they can be really strong.”
The question is; why is Bowyer not continuing to make RCR really strong?
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments