COMMENTARY | There is really nothing about Clint Bowyer that stands out.
He is easygoing, quiet -- most of the time -- and very much unassuming as a title contender.
But, whatever you do, don't ever count this man out.
The 34-year-old driver of the No. 15 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing has been a model of consistency and a real championship contender for several years now. People simply don't seem to notice.
Always in the underdog role, Bowyer has quietly finished in the top five in the Sprint Cup standings three times in his NASCAR career, including a runner-up finish in 2012, but you certainly wouldn't have thought that he was in the thick of championship contention last season. No, the 2012 Chase was all about the "usual players."
This year, Bowyer is second in the standings once again, 75 points back of leader Jimmie Johnson with five races remaining before the Chase. While he doesn't have a win yet in 2013, Bowyer has once again got it done on the strength of consistency with 12 top 10s in 22 races, one year after posting a career-best 23 top 10s in 36 starts.
Without a victory, Bowyer doesn't have a much-needed safety net in the event that the bottom falls out on his season, and he also doesn't have any bonus points entering the Chase. But while a win would certainly cure all that ails him, with or without a win, Bowyer should very much be considered a legitimate championship contender.
So why doesn't Bowyer garner more attention by the fans or the media?
While most drivers feel the weight of the constant Hendrick pandering on weekly telecasts, Bowyer seems to suffer more than most. The Kansas native is often overlooked and sometimes forgotten in the midst of the "where is Danica" and "how is Junior doing" coverage.
Heck, the most coverage Bowyer has received in his NASCAR career was his wreck and ultimate confrontation with Jeff Gordon at the next-to-last race of the 2012 season. Why did it take the driver coming to fisticuffs with a racing legend to make headlines?
One thought is that perhaps it is that he has always played second-fiddle on his own team. Despite eight wins and being in Chase contention nearly every season, Bowyer was lost in the mix at Richard Childress Racing behind the likes of Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton despite outpacing his teammates much of the latter part of his Childress career.
Thankfully, some of that sideshow status has been resolved with his move to Michael Waltrip Racing, acting as the lead driver on a team that also includes a re-energized Martin Truex Jr. and a rotating seat wheeled by drivers such as Mark Martin, Brian Vickers and Waltrip himself.
However, the problem now is that many don't want to believe that Michael Waltrip Racing is a legitimate contender. A team that struggled mightily in its early years, the team has been an afterthought for most of its existence despite placing two teams in the Chase last year.
I think it is time to really take a closer look at Michael Waltrip Racing as a real title contender and highlight Bowyer as a real threat and not an afterthought. The man is much better than the coverage would lead you to believe, and he is darn good at the next few tracks on the schedule.
Whatever you do, don't sleep on the most underappreciated driver in the field. He may not be flashy, but, boy, can that guy drive a racecar.
L.A. Crum is a writer and journalist from Ohio. He is an avid follower of motorsports and college athletics and has worked with many of the top teams and drivers in the racing industry during his decade long career. He is a proud graduate of Marshall University.
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Michael Waltrip Racing
- Clint Bowyer