NASCAR Sprint Cup Series | 5-Hour Energy 400

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NASCAR: Bowyer at home in Kansas, with Michael Waltrip Racing

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/09/20/32/1tgrRo.Em.138.jpeg|214
    Jerry Markland - GETTY
    Fans at Kansas Speedway take special interest in Clint Bowyer, who is from Emporia, Kan., about 100 miles south of the race track. Bowyer, 18th in the Sprint Cup Series standings, is looking for his first win of the season.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/09/20/32/CtNvZ.Em.138.jpeg|209
    Jared C. Tilton - GETTY
    Clint Bowyer is from Emporia, Kan., about 100 miles south of Kansas Speedway, site of this week’s Sprint Cup race.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/09/20/32/sfE82.Em.138.jpeg|210
    Jared C. Tilton - Getty Images
    Clint Bowyer and his primary sponsor, 5-Hour Energy,

KANSAS CITY, Kan. There’s no place like home for Clint Bowyer.

Nothing gets the native of Emporia, Kan., more excited than the opportunity to compete in a Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway, capping several days of visiting friends and family.

Saturday night’s 5-Hour Energy 400 has even more meaning this season.

Earlier this week, Bowyer, his crew chief, Brian Pattie, and his No. 15 Toyota team’s sponsor agreed to multiyear contract extensions with Michael Waltrip Racing.

Now, Bowyer’s NASCAR home is secure for the foreseeable future.

“The key to success in this sport is people and being able to keep those people together,” said Bowyer, who has three wins since joining MWR in the 2012 season. “So, I’m really happy about keeping Pattie and the whole group intact.

“I’m telling you, going through these contracts and stuff like that, it’s just hard on everybody. Because (team members) want to know about their future, too, and trying to figure out what that holds.

“It weighs on everybody all across the board. It’s not just me.”

Although Bowyer’s tenure at MWR got off to a rousing start, with three wins and a runner-up finish in the series standings in 2012, his future – and that of the organization – was covered with a dark cloud less than eight months ago.

Despite escaping direct responsibility, Bowyer played an integral role in the scandal that rocked NASCAR last fall when MWR officials attempted to alter the outcome of a race at Richmond, Va., in an effort to ensure Bowyer’s then-teammate, Martin Truex Jr., would get into the Chase.

Bowyer had already qualified for the Chase on his own and continued to compete, but MWR lost longtime sponsor NAPA in the scandal’s aftermath and the ability to field Truex’s team beyond last season.

That left the organization with a shaky two-team foundation entering the 2014 season – the No. 55 team of Brian Vickers, who returned to full-time competition this season after treatment last fall for blood clots, and the No. 15 of Bowyer, who was in the final year of his contract, as was his team’s sponsor.

Completing a deal that would retain Bowyer and sponsor was a necessity for the long-term health of MWR.

“I wanted to stay right where I was at,” Bowyer said. “I have a great team, I have a great sponsor, I have a great manufacturer. I’ve got a great organization that takes care of my sponsors that builds a great platform for all of them to be able to showcase a product and get their bang for the buck.

“We took care of business for our sponsors, and they came back. The only reason you can re-sign these sponsors is if you do a good job for them and they see a return on their investment.”

Bowyer still finished seventh in the series standings last season, despite the controversy that swirled around him and his team at the end of last season.

MWR is hoping to see more of the speed and consistency Bowyer and Pattie have produced on the track since they first arrived.

Still without a win this season – which is now the surest way to qualify for the Chase – Bowyer remains upbeat a trip to Victory Lane is right around the corner, perhaps even this weekend.

“To get all that behind us, to get a good run last weekend in Talladega (he finished third) and to get some momentum back in our direction is something that was definitely needed,” Bowyer said. “Now, all we have to do is focus on winning one of these races, getting ourselves in the Chase, and more importantly, getting back to our consistency.

“I really am focused on getting back to our consistent ways that we’ve been known for. If we can do that, I think we’ll be in this Chase no matter what.”

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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