The news of Michael Waltrip Racing releasing Clint Bowyer doesn’t come as a huge shock, but it’s still a massive move for a team that nearly won a Sprint Cup title in 2012. Now comes the process begins for both sides as they look to pick up the pieces.
While the future doesn’t look especially bright for MWR, Bowyer still has a long career ahead of him. The only question around the NASCAR garage now is: Where will the Bowyer land?
The 36-year-old driver was part of the eventual demise for MWR in the race-fixing scandal at Richmond International Raceway in 2013. Now, he heads for greener pastures with a championship still not out of reach in the coming years.
Here are a few possibilities for Bowyer’s future and reasons why it would work out for both sides.
Chip Ganassi Racing
This one is a bit obvious. Rob Kauffman, a principal owner of MWR, will be leaving for Chip Ganassi Racing after this season. Bowyer has found plenty of success alongside Kauffman, most notably finishing second in points in 2012 and winning three races.
While the initial sentiment seemed that Bowyer would head straight to CGR in a third car, Kauffman didn’t address the matter in the MWR release.
“Clint Bowyer has done a lot for MWR since joining us in 2012 and we appreciate the energy and effort he has given the organization,” Kauffman said. “After many discussions, Clint and I agreed we would go our separate ways at the end of the season and I wish him well in whatever direction he pursues.”
Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray have proven over the last two years that Chip Ganassi Racing can field competitive cars. But they aren’t exactly a consistent threat on the track that Bowyer would likely want to be when he makes the switch.
The team also drives Chevrolet, which likely wouldn’t be a huge issue for Bowyer after racing for Richard Childress for his first seven seasons. Finishing top five in points twice with a bowtie on the hood, Bowyer’s future would be bright behind the wheel of another.
Furniture Row Racing
Hello perfect situation, we’d like to introduce you to Furniture Row Racing and Clint Bowyer. Furniture Row Racing is flourishing this year with the No. 78 team and has made it very clear that it is looking to expand to a second car. Bowyer is an ideal fit.
This, of course, would be the ultimate irony for two former teammates in Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. Both were part of Michael Waltrip Racing in the past and were also involved in the Richmond scandal that ultimately led to the tearing apart of a potential championship garage.
So could Truex and Bowyer be teammates again? Well, if his tweet from earlier in August is any indication, they definitely could share the same garage again.
You live, you learn and then you team up to build a team that is changing NASCAR for the better. The only drawback for Furniture Row in starting a second team has been sponsors. If Bowyer can bring a company over like 5-Hour Energy, Maxwell House or Aaron’s, he would give FRR the sponsorship dollars it needs.
Oh, then there’s the potential switch to Toyota Racing for Furniture Row in the works. This could not be a more perfect situation for Bowyer and Furniture Row, who both have a chance to build something memorable over the next several years.
There’s levels to this. Bowyer to Stewart-Haas Racing is a deal that might not happen this winter, but it is already gaining traction. In fact, Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press already laid out the specifics for Bowyer’s potential move to SHR.
Although he could end up at Ganassi with sponsor 5-Hour Energy, Bowyer is more likely looking for a one-year deal to wait for an opening with one of NASCAR’s powerhouse teams in 2017. It’s possible he could replace Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing should the three-time NASCAR champion make 2016 his final season.
Suffice to say, there’s a lot that has to take place in order for Bowyer to land with Tony Stewart’s team. Like, you know, a 44-year-old driver calling it quits. Crazier things have happened to make room for a new star in a legend’s seat, right Jeff Gordon?
A long shot at best, this would be a stable environment for Bowyer and one where he might be able to win that elusive title. Sharing the same garage with champions like Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, Bowyer would gain valuable knowledge about closing the deal. He’d also climb behind the wheel of a car that’s already won a title with the No. 14 machine.
So even if Bowyer doesn’t choose one of the aforementioned teams, he might still wind up with a juggernaut program in the future. With the talent that Bowyer has on the track, it’s not like SHR wouldn’t leave the door wide open if Stewart does decide next year is his last.