When Michael Waltrip Racing folds after the 2015 NASCAR season, driver Clint Bowyer will try to find a ride with a new team.
Clint Bowyer’s uncertain future includes finding a team for next season and landing a spot in NASCAR’s playoffs for this season.
He’ll at least know the outcome of his postseason fortune on Saturday night at Richmond International Speedway.
Bowyer is in solid shape heading into the final race that will decide the 16-driver field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Bowyer could win the race and earn an automatic berth in the field. Though he’s a two-time winner at Richmond, Bowyer hasn’t won since 2012 and has only two top-five finishes this season for Michael Waltrip Racing.
He would clinch a spot by finishing 28th or better; 29th with at least one lap led; or 30th with the most laps led. Bowyer holds the 16th and final Chase position with a 29-point lead over 17th place, but he is also just 44 points behind 12th place.
“Richmond is one of those tracks that I’ve always had a lot of confidence in. She’s been good to me,” Bowyer said. “It’s a fun race track, challenging. The second time around when the money’s on the line, if you are on that bubble in the Chase, it’s a pressure cooker for sure and pretty intense.”
Bowyer’s final weeks are pretty intense, no matter the outcome. He was released from his contract, which still had two seasons remaining, when MWR decided to fold at the end of this season.
He is more likely looking for a one-year deal to wait for an opening with one of NASCAR’s powerhouse teams in 2017. It’s possible he could replace Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing should the three-time NASCAR champion make 2016 his final season.
MWR and Bowyer have never really recovered from the stain of the 2013 Richmond race. MWR was accused of having Bowyer intentionally spin late the race to begin a sequence of events that earned MWR driver Martin Truex Jr. a spot in the Chase.
Bowyer kept his spot in the Chase, though he never came close to challenging for the championship. He opened with a ninth-place finish at Chicago, where points leader Matt Kenseth won, and was 17th the next week at New Hampshire, where Kenseth won again. Just like that, Bowyer was 10th in the standings and out of the title hunt.
He finished seventh in the standings and was never a threat last season when he finished 19th.
Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Kasey Kahne can clinch a Chase berth without a win, but need help in the form of poor finishes from winless drivers ahead of them in points and/or a repeat winner.
Bowyer, who won at Richmond in September 2012 and May 2008, has four top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 19 races at the track.
“The key to Richmond is what it’s always been, have a fast race car and a good group of guys around you,” Bowyer said, “and certainly we have that. It’s such a fun race track, perfect size.”
JUSTIN WILSON FUNERAL: The funeral for Justin Wilson will be held on Thursday in his native England.
Wilson died one day after he was struck in the head by debris from another driver’s car in last month’s race at Pocono Raceway.
He left behind a wife and two young daughters. Donations to his family can be made at www.justinwilson.co.uk/donate and drivers from IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, the World Endurance Championship, the Global Rally Cross Championship, and others, will be donating helmets to the Wilson Children’s Fund for an upcoming auction.
CHASE MARSHALS: Grand Slam tennis champion Billie Jean King and basketball Hall of Famer Jerry West are the grand marshals for the Chase opener Sept. 20 at Chicagoland Speedway.
King and West both have atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that puts them at a one in three chance of having a stroke.
The race is titled MyAFibRisk.com 400 as part of September’s AFib Awareness Month.
DOG DAYS: It’s truly the dog days of the NASCAR season. The Greg Biffle Foundation has released the 2016 NASCAR Pets Calendar and the proceeds benefit the Greg Biffle Foundation.
The foundation aims to create awareness and serve as an advocate to improve the well-being of animals. It has awarded grants to over 500 humane societies and animal shelters
The 2016 calendar features Ryan Newman, Danica Patrick, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Biffle and other drivers and NASCAR personalities pictured with their pets.
PAY DIRT: The World 100 has hit pay dirt.
The Eldora Speedway race has its largest dirt late model purse since “The Million” in 2001 with a total of $318,850 earmarked for The Biggest Dirt Race in the World. The race is set for Sept. 10-12 and the winner earns $48,000.