Impact Analysis: Clint Bowyer, Richard Childress Racing

by C.J. Radune on April 21, 2008 @ 14:49:44 PDT

 


In only his second full season of NASCAR Sprint Cup competition, Bowyer finished third in the Cup points standings. Bowyer has started the 2008 season well and currently sits eighth in the standings. He has proven that he is not there to play second-fiddle to Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton. Bowyer is there to win as much, if not more than his teammates at Richard Childress Racing.

Bowyer's first season in the Sprint Cup Series (2006) was not remarkable, but it was good enough to finish 17th in the points standings. In 36 starts, Bowyer managed four top-fives and 11 top-10s. Since posting four DNFs that year, Bowyer has yet to record another in his following 44 races.

His consistency and homegrown personality made him an underdog candidate for the championship in just his second year. He followed up those expectations with his best finish (third) in the Cup Series. Bowyer picked up his first win, five top-fives and 17 top-10s in just his second full season.

Heading into 2008, Bowyer knew he would have to do even better. His prior season's success raised expectations and grabbed the attention of his fellow drivers in the NASCAR ranks. He has carried the momentum from last season to the early part of 2008 and has set out to be better than last season.

Career review

Bowyer was raised working on cars and driving them on local tracks. He started racing dirt bikes at age five, where he picked up 200 wins and various championships spanning the next eight years. He made the transition to four wheels in 1996 before eventually making his first start in the ARCA RE/MAX series in 2003, where he finished second in his debut race. That finish caught the interest of owner Richard Childress, and the rest is history.

After taking over the No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet on a full-time basis in the '06 season, Bowyer followed it up with a very strong showing in '07. His abilities have followed him in every series he has raced in and has come to the Sprint Cup via the traditional path. This makes him somewhat of an anomaly in the current climate of international drivers and open wheel defectors.

In his two full seasons (35 starts in 2005-06) racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, he did not finish lower than third in the final standings. While pulling double duty in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series' this season, he is ahead of Carl Edwards by nine points for the Nationwide lead in points. Bowyer has also competed minimally in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series by having one pole, one win, two top-fives and three top-10s in seven starts. With a resume like that it is hard to picture Bowyer not being successful in the Cup Series.

Table: Bowyer's Sprint Cup Career (first eight starts 2006-08)

Year
Poles
Wins
Top-5
Top-10
Laps Led
2008
0
0
2
5
137
2007
2
1
5
17
387
2006
0
0
4
11
112

Just a quarter of the way into the 2008 season, Bowyer is on track to eclipse his results of 2007.

Team dynamic

After Bowyer proved himself through a number of different series, RCR helped him get to the top. Bowyer won in many divisions prior to joining RCR so he didn't need to be groomed by a top team, he just needed the resources and support.

Bowyer joined a team of veterans. Harvick, who has been in the Sprint Cup Series since 2001, has been a top driver since picking up a win in his third race in '01. Burton has established himself as a consistent frontrunner during his 14-year career in the series and is currently first in the Cup points standings. Certainly Bowyer knew he would have to compete at a championship level in order to stay with RCR, and he'd have to do it quickly. He has done just that.

Bowyer finished the 2007 regular season in ninth place. He picked up a win in the first race of the Chase to put him in fourth place and was able to maintain his position with four top-10s in the remaining nine races. Bowyer was the first RCR driver to win in the new car and also was the top finisher in the series standings last season.

RCR have brought many engineers to the teams that have worked exclusively on getting the new car to race well. The efforts of the engineers in the shop have given all of the RCR cars base setups that their crew chiefs; drivers can then tune to the cars the driver's and track's preference. The first three races didn't start off well for Bowyer, but his relationship with his crew chief has certainly put the team back on track.

Bowyer's crew chief Gil Martin has been successful in giving Bowyer what he needs on the track and getting the most from race strategy. Bowyer has said that after the first three races of the season, where the team did not finish better than 19th, Martin worked excessively to turn the performances around. Martin worked in the wind tunnel and on the seven-post shaker rig to refine the car's setup. Those efforts have now produced five straight top-10 finishes for Bowyer.

Fantasy outlook

After a rough three-race start to the season, Bowyer and Martin are working together well by having put together an impressive top-10 streak. There will be racetracks that Bowyer won't live up to expectations, like Daytona International Speedway, but make sure he is in your lineup for Darlington Raceway and Richmond International Raceway. With a crew of engineers working around the clock on RCR setups, and Martin working tirelessly to find what works best for Bowyer, fantasy owners can expect consistently strong showings from Bowyer through the remainder of the season.

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About C.J. Radune

Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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