Although Michael Waltrip has given it his all, the sad truth is that his MWR organization is collapsing and will not be able to run any cars full-time next season. As a result, Waltrip has granted driver Clint Bowyer a release to find employment elsewhere. Bowyer is currently 16th in the Sprint Cup standings and has 3 races remaining to qualify for 1 of the 16 slots in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. While it seems likely he will end up at Ganassi with sponsor 5-Hour Energy, insiders speculate that he may chose to wait until 2017 before committing to a single team pending on any openings that may occur then.
There have been a lot of factors leading up to the demise of Waltrip Racing during its rocky 9-year run, including a cheating scandal in 2007, when 2-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip was found to have jet fuel in his engine, as well as the loss of driver Brian Vickers due to medical problems resulting from a recurring blood clot problem this year. Toyota has also failed to renew its manufacture contract with Waltrip as the automaker has been courting Martin Truex Jr’s new team, Furniture Row Racing. The final nail in the coffin, however, seems to be co-owner Rob Kauffman’s decision to let go of the team in favor of an ownership stake in Chip Ganassi Racing, and the fact that he will be taking David Ragan along with him.
Bowyer, 36, began racing in motocross at the age of 5. He went on to net more than 200 wins and numerous championships over the next 8 years, before moving on to racing in street stocks at Thunderhill Speedway in Mayetta, Kansas, where he won the Modified championship there in 2000. All in all Clint collected 18 wins and 32 top-five finishes on his way to capturing the 2001 Modified championships at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas and Heartland Park Topeka. He then began racing in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series, posting 9 poles, 12 wins and 32 top-5 finishes en route to a 2nd place finish in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series national point standings in 2002, and was crowned the 2002 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Midwest Champion following another Modified championship at Lakeside Speedway and a Late Model championship at the famed I-70 Speedway in Odessa, MO, his first attempt at racing on asphalt.
The following year, Bowyer raced a full season in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division Midwest Series, scoring one top-ten finish in 11 starts. He also would make his first ARCA starts in 2003, and caught the attention of Richard Childress after leading 47 laps and finishing second in his debut at Nashville Superspeedway driving for Scott Traylor out of Kansas City. He then ended up spending 8-years with Childress before switching to Waltrip.