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RCR-Bowyer Divorce Is Kind Of An Odd One

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 8 2011

Clint Bowyer is on his way out at Richard Childress but why? (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

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

Michael Waltrip and Clint Bowyer got hitched on Friday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

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.

Austin Dillon. The future of Richard Childress Racing? (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

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 jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 8 2011
11 Comments

11 Comments »

  • DH says:

    You need to buy a recorder because you missed half of the new conference. The bottom line was the PPR (price per race)5 Hour was willing to pay. MWR is a bottom feeder and willing to put a car out on the track for cheap. The PPR RCR needs to support a first class race team was higher then 5 Hour was willing to pay.

    5 Hour shopped to all of the teams and only MWR was willing to run at the price they were willing to pay.

    I feel bad for Bowyer having to work for a team that will make him dance like a fool on TV and drive for a joke of a race team.

    • ddsbstrb says:

      Some excellent points. I think POS has probably done this, with Ken Butler, at certain points, also, when Butler wouldn’t or couldn’t fund Reuti for the entire 36 races. It started out with maybe and 24 race-deal. Magically, POS would announce that Ken was picking up some more races. I am sure there was some kind of….”deal”….cut, for the additional races. Probably some big negotiations went down, over at that converted bowling alley/cinema complex with Ken!

      Excellent points with your post!

  • Richard Moore says:

    Clint will do very well there, the other drivers don’t have his skills with what 4 career wins between them? that’s about total of Mikeys wins.
    Clint will have to learn to demand better of the people around him and that’s not his way just yet but he can learn that.
    I have watched him for years and am glad he is getting away from that shop, not because of Richard but Kevin is a lousy team mate and RCR seems to pander to his ego.
    Anyways Clint if you read this I’m a fan and wish you lots of good cars for 2012, go take it!

  • ddsbstrb says:

    I wonder if Clint is reconsidering what he did last Friday?

    Even Frank Stoddard’s #32 Ford finished higher than all three of those MWR-”rocketships”, today and that includes the #00, #47 and the #56!

    Anybody at the track happen to see Clint talking with Frankie Stoddard, after the end of the race?

    Hopefully, Clint will bring-along some axles from RCR, for use over at the converted bowling alley/cinema-complex in Cornelius for next season. They will go right along with the Roush….”sway-bars”….from a couple of years ago. Remember that one?

  • RA Eckart says:

    So the answer is BUDWEISER! They don’t allow drink conflicts within the whole team. It’s why they couldn’t go to Hendrick with Dale Junior (Hendrick wasn’t about to kick out Pepsi), and they wouldn’t let Richard take 5-Hour and Clint, fully-funded.

    They continue to be stuck in the 1980’s in their sponsorship practices. When will they learn to work with other companies. Hell, they might buy 5-Hour, since the energy drink business is growing wildly, while beer is flat.

  • Buddy says:

    Maybe it had something to do with RCR trying to pull 5hr away from Clint in order to sponsor a family member.

  • ddsbstrb says:

    What about Bobby “rocket-fuel” Kennedy for the new, crew chief?

    Clint better check that…..intake…..on a weekly basis, if Kennedy is close to that #15!

    Maybe David Hyder is being considered, also? Ditto, about that weekly check, also!

  • ddsbstrb says:

    I wonder if Clint ever talked to Dale Jarrett about this move?

    I see this as nothing but a huge step…..backwards…..for Clint; as the new, team-owner is way, too unfocused, except for getting his “mug” on TV like he will be doing on the Hollyweird Hotel next season.

    At least Clint will get a lot of “publicity” from JAWS and POS when Fox runs the show! LMAO….not so much when ESPN’s broadcasts take over.

  • Sue Rarick says:

    There are a lot of questions. Usually a driver likes to keep a crew chief if possible. There hasn’t been word one about Wilson going with Clint which just adds one more question.

  • ed says:

    Whatever went wrong, happened back when Clint was forced out of a winning car and crew chief.