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NASCAR Season Preview: Clint Bowyer

Photo credit: Ned Leone

#15 5 Hour Energy Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing

Born: May 30, 1979

Home: Emporia, Kansas

2011 HIGHLIGHTS: Bowyer took his fifth career Sprint Cup win at Talladega, taking the checkered flag at the October race for the second year in a row. With four top fives and 16 top 10s, Bowyer finished 13th in points, the best driver not to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

2011 LOWLIGHTS: Missing the 2011 Chase after mounting a serious charge to get in the previous season proved a disappointment for Bowyer. Worse, he had to break an owner-driver relationship with Richard Childress after the season that neither party wanted to terminate; Bowyer ended up taking new 5 Hour Energy sponsorship to Michael Waltrip Racing.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Bowyer and Brian Pattie will lead a brand new, third team at Michael Waltrip Racing, which expands to three full-time cars for the first time since 2008. They’ll take the owners’ points from David Reutimann’s team last season to guarantee their way into their first five races, surely an aid as the new combination attempts to gel. Meanwhile, 5 Hour Energy moves up from Steve Wallace’s Nationwide team to back the team for 20 races.

MWR is a decent team that’s looking to reach the next level and crack the Chase for the first time in 2012, and judging by his past results in the final few months of the season, they feel that Bowyer’s the guy to take them there. The key will be how quickly this team learns to work with one another. Bowyer and Pattie haven’t worked together before, and the crew will be completely new, perhaps comprised of some of the displaced members of the former Team Red Bull. With a three-year contract, Bowyer will have plenty of time to settle in, but for his team’s sake, the sooner they can put it together, the better.

– Chris Leone

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