Free agent Bowyer makes it official, joins Waltrip Racing for 2012
By RICK MINTER / Cox Newspapers
In moving from Richard Childress’ race team to Michael Waltrip’s, Clint Bowyer is moving from a team that has won 99 Sprint Cup races and six championships to a much younger team that that has won two races and has a best points finish of 16th, all three by David Reutimann.
But Bowyer said during an announcement last week at Kansas that he sees his move as a step forward.
“It’s all about the future,” he said. “The future’s bright. I’m looking forward to a good relationship with [Michael Waltrip Racing], with Toyota, everybody involved. I think it’s going to be a good time.”
Bowyer, who became a free agent this year, said he first secured the backing of sponsor 5-Hour Energy, then went looking for a race team. He first tried to get the deal to work at Childress, but that didn’t pan out. At that point, he made the decision to leave Childress and went shopping for a new race team. It wasn’t long before he settled on Waltrip’s, where he will be a teammate to Martin Truex Jr. and Reutimann.
“I see a young, aggressive team [with] great backing with Toyota behind them in a down market,” he said. “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 [hard] 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.”
It’s uncertain as yet who will be Bowyer’s crew chief next year, but he will have a familiar face as the team’s executive vice president of competition. Scott Miller, a veteran Childress employee, is moving to Waltrip’s team next year.
Bowyer said Miller’s recent decision to move to Waltrip’s team had an influence on his thinking.
“Scott Miller is a great friend,” he said. “Obviously, as soon as I heard they were talking to Scott Miller, it definitely tripped my trigger.
“He’s a go-getter, influential in everything that has happened at [Richard Childress Racing], and I know he’s going to be a great asset for MWR. He’s just a great guy, a good leader and all around great person to be around.”
For Waltrip, hiring Bowyer, a proven Chase contender, is a way to add a third team and to make his entire organization a bigger player in the championship hunt. He said he heard those words from Lee White, the group vice president and general manager for Toyota Motor Sales, USA.
“He just came up to me and said, ‘You need to get this done. This will change your company,’” Waltrip said. “Lee’s a racer, and he knows that [Bowyer] can go out there and win the championship.”
Bowyer will drive a car numbered 15, the same number Waltrip used when he drove for the late Dale Earnhardt, who once drove a Ford with that number for car owner Bud Moore.
“There were some options that they threw out there, and I just liked the 15,” Bowyer said. “Obviously, I’m a racer and I want to be closer to number one than 100. It was obviously good to Michael [Waltrip, who won the Daytona 500 twice while running No. 15].
“I’m big on Daytona. That’s one of my favorite race tracks, and that number was pretty good to him there, so hopefully we can get us one one of these days.”
The sponsorship picture for Bowyer’s car isn’t complete as the 5-Hour Energy deal is for just 24 races. But Waltrip said he’s optimistic the remaining races can be sold.
“We have 12 races to fill,” he said. “We look forward to this announcement becoming public knowledge so we can begin the pursuit to put some more folks on the car with Clint …
“He does a great job telling the story. He’s just very energetic, 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.”