Making the Grade: A Preview of the Probable 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Top 12 (Part 3 of 12)
Insane, right? Bolting from Richard Childress Racing to fledgling Michael Waltrip Racing, a team that looked pathetic in 2007? Good luck with all that, Clint Bowyer.
Instead of going out to lunch, Bowyer feasted on his competition in 2012, winning at Sonoma, Richmond, and Charlotte en route to his best season (second in points).
Impressive considering it came with an organization that looked like it would be one and done just six years ago, it's no secret how the pride of Emporia, KS showed critics, competitors, and Jeff Gordon that he can still wheel a racecar.
Oh, right. The Bowyer/Gordon fiasco at Phoenix. Not a big deal, right?
Some say that the donnybrook between both drivers and their crews at Phoenix last November cost the No. 15 5 Hour Energy Toyota Camry team's shot at winning the championship.
While that may be a bit of a stretch, Bowyer and crew chief Brian Pattie rebounded from that incident by placing second in the season finale at Homestead-Miami, trailing...Jeff Gorodn.
All No. 24 team aside with Bowyer and company, it was a fantastic year for both driver and team, who made a statement in the following:
- Bowyer isn't washed up and still can win races - lots of races.
- Michael Waltrip Racing is a legit and winning organization who look about a few years away from a title
About the only weakness that Bowyer displayed in 2012 was the ability to maintain strong finishes in consecutive races. Yes, he did score 10 top-fives and 23 top-10's, but he tallied four DNF's, with three of those being crashes. Although his temper cost him higher finishes and wins, particularly at the short tracks, overall he was stout and absolutely looked like championship material.
Like most aggressive drivers, Bowyer tends to have some difficulty letting things go and sometimes doesn't choose his battles wisely. Nosebombing on a restart at the spring Martinsville race, roughing up the No. 24 in the Martinsville fall classic, and ultimately, testing Gordon's patience at Phoenix resulted in a driver duel that may continue into this coming season.
Or will it?
Ah, mind games can be quite the deal in NASCAR. Then again, if one were to surmise who'd win out in this utlimate mental trap between the relatively young gun talent and the grizzled championship veteran, well, one can make the call there.
There may be somewhat of a drop off in performance with Bowyer in 2013. Call it a runner-up hangover or just the competition exponentially improving, don't expect too much of the same consistency with the No. 15 team.
Wins are on the horizon, but a championship? Don't expect too much.
Then again, this writer did somewhat of the same thing last year too.