Clint Bowyer Was Biggest 2012 Surprise In NASCAR

By Les Bailey
Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Even after Clint Bowyer’s first win of the 2012 season at The Toyota/Save Mart 350 in California back in June, I remember writing a blog saying Michael Waltrip Racing still needed a top line driver if they were ever going to make a serious run at a Sprint Cup title, but was I ever wrong. I need to be having crow for Christmas dinner.

I seriously believe, had Bowyer not been wrecked at Phoenix by Jeff Gordon settling an on-track vendetta, he would have had a chance for that title this year. Brad Keselowski was in trouble at Homestead, and Jimmie Johnson along with crew chief, Chad Knaus figured out how to beat him, but failed because of mechanical problems.  Bowyer was just too far back after the debacle the previous week to close the gap.

The momentum Bowyer has gained after picking up late season wins at Martinsville and Charlotte, was proof to me that he can, and will be a factor in 2013,  the top line driver Michael Waltrip needs to get that championship. With the old timer(Mark Martin) on the team and in the young drivers’ ears, MWR is finally a contender to challenge the Hendricks Dynasty for at least the next five years.

I have never been a fan of Rousch/Fenway, and their stable of Fords being able to compete year to year with the Chevrolets, but the Toyotas can if they can get the engine and mechanical problems under control. Clint Bowyer has the talent to make the next step, and take a Toyota to the Promise Land. Earnhardt Ganassi Racing is moving to Fords in 2013, and even as good as Brad Keselowski is, it will take a season for him, and especially his team to get a handle on the Fords, so I don’t look for Brad to be in contention next year. Maybe in 2014.

Bowyer has shown he can win at the road courses, the short tracks, and with his win at the 2011 Good Sam Club 500 in Talladega, the super speedways. Look for him to get off to a good start in his second campaign at MWR, with a chip on his shoulder after his runner-up finish last year. I know I have become a fan, and after all,  he visited the Duck Dynasty earlier this month, so he has to be cool.

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