If music has Miley Cyrus as the "it" icon for attention and talents (no matter how one may feel about her), NASCAR racing has Clint Bowyer, the man behind the interesting scenario that virtually shook up the Sprint Cup season and Chase last fall at Richmond International Raceway.
The itch was certainly there to win races and to build upon that runner-up points finish in 2012, but even with the Spingate fiasco, it was a somewhat middling campaign for this racer from the Michael Waltrip Racing stable. Each race day was a bit of feast or famine for this bunch, finishing as high as second at the spring Martinsville race and as low as 39th at Atlanta in the summer.
Bowyer's a very capable and talented racer, averaging about a 14.44 finish in races, as compiled by our statistician Ashley Hobbs, making the Chase in five of his eight Cup campaigns thus far.
He's very much an odds on favorite to make the playoffs each year, compiling eight wins although last season was the first year in which the pride of Emproia, KS failed to make a trip into Victory Lane since 2009.
In a way, he's a very similar racer to his Toyota counterparts in Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, as he's very aggressive, focused, and intense, never holding back and always willing to put the fender on others if it's what it takes to get himself in a position to win. Just ask Jeff Gordon, who knows a thing or three about Bowyer racing hard, no matter the stakes at any track.
Last season was like that steak that was just missing the extra spices which would've made it exquisite or a concert without that "wow' moment. Perhaps it was the Gen-6 car, as MWR wasn't nearly as fast as the Joe Gibbs Racing triumvirate on most days.
While the season started off decently with an 11th at Daytona and a sixth at Phoenix, his 27th place effort at Las Vegas was an indicator to the kind of year that this entertaining racer would encounter for the balance of 2013.
Strong efforts were followed by a few motor ailments and other race days saw the No. 15 Toyota underperforming with the top-10 regulars on the intermediates and superspeedways.
Crew chief Brian Pattie is one of the top talents in the garage area and his brilliant skills and preparation of Bowyer's machine was quite noted, even when they weren't as sharp at tracks that they excelled at in 2012. Their Chase effort was pretty decent, with six top-10 efforts and a lowly 20th place finish at Phoenix, where most of the Toyota teams were struggling last fall. Additionally, the pit crew was solid, propelling their driver into a position to win but that killer instinct was lacking most of last year.
For that reason, while we see Bowyer returning to Victory Lane on a few occasions this year, TPF sees NASCAR's most recently engaged racer placing 11th in the overall points race. Another Chase appearance is definite and the No. 15 Toyota Camry will be a force to be reckoned with all year long. Kansas is definitely one place that he'd like to make a trip into the winner's circle and we anticipate that popular moment happening at last for this wheelman.
However, the competition will still be quite heavy and most of the usual suspects will likely make the 5-Hour Energy team somewhat overshadowed. That said, we don't dismiss this diligent crew and cagey veteran from contending on a regular basis, more so than in 2013.
Did we mention that he's at least got championship material happening at least within the next few years? We didn't? Well, now we did. There's just 10 stronger teams ahead of the No. 15 brigade, but anything's possible and as we saw in 2013, injuries and controversy could have a lot more say with things than the racing on the track.
Author's Notes and Fans to Follow: Again, our thanks to Ashley Hobbs for her help in the stats department for this piece and our Chase series for the 2014 season. She'll be writing soon on TPF! Some of Clint Bowyer's best fans to follow on Twitter include Allen Bedgood and Martha Taylor Upshaw - follow some of our friends right now!