Once, Clint Bowyer was happy to be amongst the boys of the Sprint Cup Series. Racing weekly with the stars of the NSCS for an organization as storied as the sport itself.
Bowyer though, is a long ways away from his 2006 rookie season and as he continues to search for his first career Sprint Cup Series title with Michael Waltrip Racing, he now does so while thought of as one of the best. He’s now contending for wins on a weekly basis, enjoying more of the spotlight and taking a team of underdogs where they’ve never been before.
“I’m telling you, it’s the people that are around you,” said Bowyer on Tuesday during a NASCAR teleconference about his career turnaround.
“That’s the only thing that’s changed. I went from just kind of being one of the boys to one of the elite, and it’s because of making the change to MWR, to the Toyota camp and having Brian Pattie and everybody on our 15 car. That’s been the thing that’s changed.”
He’s bold move from Richard Childress Racing following the 2011 season is paying off in ways never thought before. And results appeared quicker than expected. Led by crew chief Brian Pattie, who joined Bowyer at MWR from a struggling Juan Pablo Montoya team at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, the 15 team performed as if they’d been together for years.
They won three races – Sonoma, Richmond and Charlotte – and finished second in points. It was a career year for Bowyer, both in season wins and championship finish.
“It’s all about the people you have around you,” Bowyer reiterated. “Brian Pattie, everybody on our 5-Hour Energy Toyota is just really, really on. I’ve got an awesome group, from the crew chief with Pattie to engineers, over the wall crew has really turned the corner and gotten a lot better this year.
“We just keep perfecting what we’ve got. But everybody at MWR, everybody at TRD, it’s just a really good package and a great program that I’m a part of and I think the results are kind of speaking for themselves.”
Heading into Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond, in which Bowyer is a previous winner, one of two RIR wins on his resume, he sits ninth in points. Continuing where he left off in 2012, a bit of a surprise for some, but not for Bowyer.
“I think we picked up right where we left off last year,” he said. “Obviously everybody talks about that [second place] jinx and everything else, it just wasn’t the case with us.
“The reason I didn’t think so is everybody else that had finished second, Carl – looking at Carl in particular, he lost by a point. Just the devastation from that can carry over not only just within a driver but everybody across the board on the race team.”
Unfortunately, for Bowyer, he never had a shot at losing the 2012 championship. While he went to finale in Homestead mathematically eliminated because of the now infamous crash the previous week in Phoenix with Jeff Gordon, troubles for contending Jimmie Johnson allowed Bowyer to jump over him in the final standings.
Looking back, the MWR team suffers from of a case of what could have been, instead of what should have been. But for a team of self-called misfits, it was something to be proud of and to use going forward as they learn, age and get better together.
“We were first year in with a brand new team, we finished second in the championship, won three races,” said Bowyer. “There was absolutely nothing to be hanging your head on, holding your head down.
“We were all super pumped up and couldn’t wait to get started in 2013. For us it’s just kind of been business as usual. We’ve had some bumps in the road, we’ve had some bad luck that we’ve had to battle through. But nonetheless, we’ve been able to continue to rebound after a bad weekend and get a good finish.”