Clint Bowyer walked into his first preseason media session this year and made a self-deprecating joke, as he often does when reporters gather to soak up whatever half-crazy, half-brilliant and always entertaining wisdom might fall from his mouth.
“Hi everyone,” he said. “Remember me?”
It was a fair question. Bowyer had been far from the racing spotlight for the last several seasons. His downward career spiral since a cheating controversy at Michael Waltrip Racing in 2013 has been well documented.
Relevancy is everything, and I lost that.
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He lost his job at MWR when it closed after the 2015 season. He raced last year for the lower-tier HScott Motorsports team and struggled the whole season, setting career lows in every major category, including falling all the way to 27th in points. He has not won since the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte on Oct. 13, 2012.
But Bowyer’s move to Stewart-Haas Racing for 2017 (replacing Tony Stewart, who retired) was seen as a way to restart his career. So far, it looks like he is on his way back to being, if not a championship contender, at least a driver who will make the playoffs and win occasionally.
“Relevancy is everything, and I lost that,” Bowyer said. “I didn’t like it, and it’s up to me to become relevant again, have you watch me and talk about me.”
Since crashing in the season-opening Daytona 500 and finishing 32nd, Clint Bowyer has finished in the top 15 of every race and completed every lap.
In addition to driving for a new team, Bowyer is also driving a Ford for the first time in his career. But the transition appears to have been relatively seamless. Since crashing in the season-opening Daytona 500 and finishing 32nd, Clint Bowyer has finished in the top 15 of every race and completed every lap. He has two top-fives and four top-10s, both already more than he had last season.
“I’m having a blast,” Bowyer, 37, said earlier in the season. “I’m getting a little long in the tooth here in this career. To have this opportunity to go out and compete and win races, and race for a championship hopefully, I mean, that’s what you’re here to do.”
Bowyer grew up in Emporia, Kansas, a 90-minute drive from Kansas Speedway, site of this weekend’s race. Can he break his winless streak and pick up his first win at his home track? He has been solid at intermediate tracks so far this season, with an average finish of 8.75 at Atlanta, Las Vegas, Fontana and Texas.
But his career work at Kansas is hit and miss. In his first 10 NASCAR Cup races in his home state, he finished in the top 15 seven times. But in the past seven races there, his best finish is 14th.