BRISTOL, Tenn. – Clint Bowyer couldn’t offer much clarity about his future Friday, but he was adamant about his prospects over the final three months of Michael Waltrip Racing.
Despite their impending demise as co-workers, Bowyer and his team members believe they still can make the Chase for the Sprint Cup and contend for a title.
“These guys are all racers at heart,” he said Friday before Sprint Cup practice at Bristol Motor Speedway. “After our announcement Wednesday, every single one of my guys and employees at MWR, they obviously know the future, but my guys in particular, these road guys, these guys who are on the road with me every week, all of them said ‘Listen, we’ve got a job to do. You get your damn head straight, and let’s go out and win this championship and end this on a bang.’
“That’s the fire and desire and passion that racers have, and you can’t take that from any of us. Very proud of my team and the people that we’re organized around me from Day 1 at MWR.”
The final days are approaching for the organization, which announced this week that it won’t run in NASCAR’s premier series next season. Co-owner Rob Kauffman is buying a stake in Chip Ganassi Racing, and an apparent deal to bring Bowyer and sponsor 5-hour Energy to the team fell through this week.
“Rob has invested a tremendous amount into MWR and this sport,” Bowyer said. “That being said, he made a business decision to move forward. That direction is a Ganassi organization.
“The fit for my career and my future, it’s just unfortunate that Rob and I’s futures didn’t align anymore. It’s as simple as that. It was a mutually agreed upon thing. It was something that was not ugly. It was something we did professionally and made our decisions.”
Bowyer said his future is “uncertain.” When pressed on what his prospects were and whether he preferred a one-year deal or a long-term contract, Bowyer smiled and responded, “Yes. Keep talking. Absolutely. Those are all systems go.”
Is he confident of finding a ride for 2016?
“Hey, I’m confident in this sport,” he said. “I love this sport. The sport has been good to me and my family. I’ve had a lot of great partners and a lot of great organizations I’ve worked for, and I see no reason why somebody who works hard and wants it like I do can’t have a job for as long as they want.”
Regardless of the landing spot, Bowyer should have a valuable asset in landing a ride with sponsor 5-hour Energy in tow. Kauffman said Bowyer brought 5-hour Energy to MWR, and it was likely the sponsor and driver would remain aligned in the future.
Bowyer was slightly more coy about the company that has sponsored his No. 15 Toyota since 2012.
“I’ve worked really hard in my career to have great partners,” he said. “I’ve been with a lot of great companies and been a spokesperson for them. Very proud of the relationship and the partnership I have with 5-hour.
“I think we all can agree how can there be a better fit (for) my lifestyle and my character and everything I’m about? It’s a great fit. They’re no different than I am. We didn’t see this coming. We’re both in a situation that we have to see what the future holds for both of us and move forward from that.”
But with three races remaining in the regular season, the on-track objective is clear for Bowyer, who is clinging to the final provisional berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup by 24 points over Aric Almirola.
Bowyer said disseminating the news about the end of MWR’s run would help buoy the organization’s performance in the short-term because it would help them get a jump-start on the future.
“These employees are real people with real lives with real families and a lot at stake,” he said. “They’re racers just like I am. But the racer in you doesn’t change the reality side of life. The reality is you need to provide for your family.
“I felt it was extremely important to me to get in front of that. I owed it to these employees to get this done as soon as possible, even knowing where we’re at on the bubble and in the Chase. Being honest and being straightforward and doing that for these people will set them up in the long run to make the most out of a difficult situation for us all. That’s me included. I need to start pursuing my career, and that’s what I’m doing. The first piece of the puzzle is on the table, and now we’ve got to go to work on all our paths.”