BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) All of the crew members who work on Clint Bowyer's team know they'll be out of a job in 12 more races. Like everyone else at Michael Waltrip Racing, they face an uncertain future in NASCAR following this week's announcement that the organization will close at the end of the season.
Bowyer insisted that wouldn't stop his No. 15 team from trying to win the championship.
It was a noble claim from the driver, who will likely be just fine and move on to another job in 2016. But there's never any guarantee those around him won't lose their desire to put forth full effort on behalf of an employer who is shuttering the organization.
There was no quit Saturday night, though, as Bowyer grabbed a fifth-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway to remain in contention for NASCAR's playoffs.
''We desperately needed a solid run,'' Bowyer said. ''Obviously, you're hungry for a win with this organization. It's fun to be a part of a group that can answer the call when you've got to dig down and reach down and get a little bit more to get in that Chase and be a part of an elite group.
''These guys are up for the challenge.''
Bowyer is 15th in the Sprint Cup standings with two races remaining to set the Chase for the championship field. He's holding the final transfer spot into the 16-driver field, and his finish Saturday night gave him a 35-point advantage over Aric Almirola.
It was a small victory for MWR, which learned Wednesday that co-owner Rob Kauffman had no plans to field cars in 2016. Bowyer was released from his contract, which still had two seasons remaining, and decided he didn't want to follow Kauffman to Chip Ganassi Racing.
David Ragan's deal was only to complete this season for Brian Vickers, who has been sidelined with health issues. He and Bowyer are both looking for new rides.
But the rest of the MWR employees face a far more uncertain future. Two cars are dropping off the Sprint Cup Series grid, which means those jobs are vanishing. Some employees may land elsewhere, but there aren't enough openings in the industry for everyone.
It could be particularly difficult for the high-level employees to find similar work without another team expanding. MWR general manager Ty Norris has long worked with Michael Waltrip and helped him launch the team in 2007; Scott Miller left Richard Childress Racing to be MWR's competition director. Crew chiefs Brian Pattie and Billy Scott need those positions to open on other teams to find work.
It makes for an unsettling atmosphere at a time when Bowyer and his No. 15 team need to be nearly flawless.
Bowyer has little doubt they can stay focused and get him in the Chase. He noted that his team has been performing well for the last five weeks - four finishes of eighth or better, and he was inside the top-10 before he wrecked at Michigan - and the group understands the stakes.
''Let's face it, the last month these guys have answered the call and are really digging down deep and finding that extra something that you have to find for a championship-caliber team to compete and be a part of that Chase,'' Bowyer said.
Bowyer might have contended for the win Saturday night but as he and Ragan ran inside the top-five, Ragan was pinched by Jimmie Johnson and ducked into Bowyer's lane to avoid Johnson.
Ragan spun hard into a retaining wall, and although Bowyer tried to avoid his teammate, he was hit from behind by Brad Keselowski to send Bowyer into a spin. He had to pit for repairs and so rallying back for a fifth-place finish was a small win.
''Great night for us given everything that's happened this week this was certainly what we needed as a group, as an organization to have two cars run in the top-five,'' Bowyer said. ''Sick with what happened with (Ragan). David has done such a good job of stepping in and filling in that seat and being a good teammate. We certainly didn't want to see that.''