After spending his entire - up to now, of course - career at Richard Childress Racing running Chevrolets in both NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series contests, Clint Bowyer is joining Michael Waltrip Racing's Toyota-powered cars for the 2012 season. Bowyer will drive the 5-Hour Energy Toyota in Sprint Cup competition beginning at next year's Daytona 500. This marks the third entry for MWR.
Bowyer joins Martin Truex Jr and David Reutimann in the MWR camp. "We are very passionate about [Truex's sponsor] NAPA and Aaron's and David. And we'll have that same excitement and passion for Clint," said Michael Waltrip, team owner. "You've got great teams and great assets and they all push together - and hopefully success comes out the other end."
Waltrip admitted making the Chase for the Championship was the first thing "on our radar screen when we started this year. 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 and we've been very fortunate with the way they have performed, but we just didn't get the job done."
He expects to lean more heavily on Toyota Racing Development's Sprint Cup program manager, Andy Graves and also Dave Wilson, senior vice president at TRD. "We now believe we're structured exactly how we want to be," Waltrip explained.
The agreement with 5-Hour Energy is for 24 races and Waltrip believes that by bringing the agreement into the open, he can fill the balance of 12 races for the No. 15 car. "I just love the way he goes about conducting himself and hopefully that will allow us to sign up some more sponsors to fill out the car. We're set to run the No.99 with David, the No. 15 with Clint and the No. 56 with Martin."
Bowyer knew a while ago that he wasn't going to be back with Childress' outfit and realized, "You have decisions to make. You go around and talk to teams and here, I see a young, aggressive team. I see their performance improving at Michael Waltrip Racing 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've been with RCR (Richard Childress Racing) since day one and I owe a lot to Richard, but it's time to move on," Bowyer continued. "If we can go on (here) and put them into the Chase and continue to move forward with MWR, you're going to build your brand even better."
Waltrip and Bowyer chose the No. 15 for a variety of reasons: it was Waltrip's number when he was driving and, as Bowyer put it, "I want to be closer to number one than 100. It was obviously good to Michael. I'm big on Daytona; that's one of my favorite tracks and that number was pretty good to him there, so hopefully we can get us one, one of these days." A crew chief for the No. 15 will be named at a later date.
© 2011 Anne Proffit