Waltrip signs Bowyer to 3-year deal UPDATE
Added Q&A questions with Waltrip and Bowyer below.
|Waltrip and Bowyer|
10/07/11 Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip Racing made their long-rumored relationship official Friday as MWR announced Bowyer had signed a three-year deal to drive the No. 15 car sponsored by 5-Hour Energy beginning in 2012.
Bowyer has four wins, two poles, 30 top-fives and 90 top-10s in 210 career starts – all 210 for Richard Childress Racing.
“It’s a big day for me,” Bowyer said. “Obviously, I’ve been with RCR since Day 1. I owe a lot to Richard, but it’s time to move on. Today is the day.”
The 32-year-old Bowyer has made the Chase For The Sprint Cup in three of the last five years, placing third overall in 2007, fifth in 2008 and 10th in 2010.
Bowyer is 13th in the Sprint Cup standings, the top driver who did not make the Chase. He joins an organization that has two wins since starting in 2007.
The 5-Hour Energy sponsorship is for 24 races and MWR is looking for funding for the other third of the season for what will be a third MWR car to go along with the cars driven by Martin Truex Jr. and David Reutimann.
“This dude sitting to my right can go out there and win the championship,” team co-owner Michael Waltrip said. “To get him on board, to add a third team, to get a new sponsor in 5-Hour, this is just a great day for Michael Waltrip Racing.”
Bowyer, who also won the 2008 Nationwide Series title, said he began talking to 5-Hour Energy about three months ago. He first brought the sponsorship to RCR, but RCR wasn’t able to make it work.
“I just see this as an opportunity for me to prove myself to everybody,” Bowyer said. “When you go to RCR, that has already won many championships and had the success that Richard has had, you’re just kind of another guy there.
“If we can go on and put them in the Chase and continue to move forward with MWR, you’re going to build your brand even better.”
The team did not announce a crew chief.
MICHAEL WALTRIP, team owner, Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR)
"It took a lot of people to be able to sit in front of you guys today, and I want to include Bob Carter (group vice president and general manager, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.), who is with Toyota, runs Toyota and he wanted Clint (Bowyer) to drive for us really badly and he helped us to get that done. Lee White (Toyota Racing Development) was maybe the coolest. He just came up to me and said, 'You need to get this done. This will change your company.' Lee's a racer and he knows that this dude sitting to my right can go out there and win the championship and to get him on board -- to add a third team, to get a new sponsor in 5-Hour Energy -- this is just a great day for Michael Waltrip Racing. My foundation of MWR is this guy, Ty (Norris), and also Bobby Kennedy. They've been there with me in some form or another the last 12 years and they're really helped me do some fun things and when it was time to go get Martin (Truex Jr.), Ty stepped up and helped us get that done and the same thing with Clint, so thank you Ty for all that you do for the company. I'm looking so much forward to racing our cars in 2012 with Clint and hopefully racing for a championship. Thanks again to everybody that helped get this done and did you say I was the worst driver ever or were you just -- or did you mean during that era?"
"The best thing about Scott (Henderson, president, 5-Hour Energy) and Rise (Meguiar, vice president of sales, 5-Hour Energy) and the whole 5-Hour group is they're entrepreneurial. They showed up and they've got a product that they put on the map in a short period of time and I'm passionate about taking care of my sponsors and helping them to sell more product. I just love the way you guys go about things. I love your energy -- that was kind of an accident, but I do. I really look forward to Clint (Bowyer) being on the race track and me being able to help you guys with your goals, as far as selling more 5-Hour."
How do you align your teams with the addition of Clint Bowyer?
"We have plates in the fab shop and a tractor trailer comes in the back gate and unloads metal and they shoot cars out the other end and those cars are built for each one of the teams. It's up to Clint (Bowyer), his crew chief and his guys to tune that car and let him go out on the race track and do what he's done so well the last few years. There just isn't any reason for it. We are very passionate about NAPA and Martin (Truex Jr.), and the same way about Aaron's and David (Reutimann). And, we'll have that same excitement and passion for Clint. You've got great teams and great assets and they all push together and hopefully success comes out the other end."
What do you think your organization is capable of in 2012?
"The Chase was the number one thing on our radar screen when we started this year. We felt like we had built our company. We had won races the last couple of years and we built our organization to a point where we could contend for Chase spots. Toyota really stepped up in 2011 with our engines. We've been very fortunate with the way they have performed. We just didn't get the job done. There was a bit of a change in direction with the team around about February or March on how we were going to go forward -- leaning more heavily on Andy Graves (NSCS program manager, Toyota Racing Development) and Dave (Wilson, senior vice president, Toyota Racing Development) and all of the good folks at Toyota to help us build our cars more competitively. We now believe we're structured exactly how we want to be. We have a guy in Scott Miller (executive vice president of competition, MWR) who is going to come onboard and has guided teams to the Chase and chances to win championships. He is going to be a key part of our organization into 2012. Having drivers like Clint (Bowyer), David (Reutimann) and Martin (Truex Jr.), we're poised. We're on the edge of being able to go accomplish that. Our cars are solid here. Clint outran them both, which is cool, but our cars are right up near the top of the scoring pylon and we feel like that will be something you'll see a whole lot in 2012. That's based on the people that we've put together and the organization that we're building."
Who will be Clint Bowyer's crew chief?
"We don't have that part yet."
Is this a full-season deal?
"It's a 24 race deal. We have 12 races to fill. We look forward to this announcement becoming public knowledge so we can begin the pursuit to put some more folks on the car with Clint (Bowyer). Obviously, you guys have really taken a liking to Clint. He does a great job telling the story. He's just very energetic, I just love the way he goes about conducting himself and hopefully that will allow us to sign up some more sponsors to fill out the car. But, we're set to run the 00 with Aaron's, the 15 with Clint and the 56 with Martin (Truex Jr.)."
How did you pick the number 15 for the race car?
"It was fun for me because the conversation with Clint (Bowyer) about a number was a whole lot like it was with Dale (Earnhardt) back in 2000 when he hired me to drive his car. He had 16 on (Ron) Hornaday's truck and he said 'Do you want to be 16?' And, I said 'I don't really like 16. Didn't you win in Bud Moore's car?' And he said, 'Yeah, 15.' I said, 'I like that,' and he said 'Okay, we'll be 15 then.' So, that decision was made like that and this one was the same way. Clint was like 15 is cool."
CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) (beginning in 2012)
"You know, you never know when you're going to have to eat those words and I say today's the day, but he promised me he'd be the best owner ever. It's a big day for me. Obviously, I've been with RCR (Richard Childress Racing) since day one. I owe a lot to Richard (Childress), but it's time to move on. Today's the day. Very, very excited and proud to be associated with 5-Hour. From day one from meeting these folks, it was just my kind of people. I think it was a great fit. I think it's going to be a great fit for Michael (Waltrip) and his organization. Working with Ty (Norris) -- I'm going to echo a little bit of Michael's comments - Ty's been influential to make this thing happen. He's worked hard -- one of the hardest working guys. Obviously, everybody knows I've been talking and working real hard on where I was going to be in my future and I actually -- you had to schedule to see Ty because he was out of town. He was digging. That makes you excited. That's why they've been able to keep the sponsors they have over the years. On my side, like I said, it's all about the future. The future's bright. I'm looking forward to a good relationship with MWR, with Toyota, everybody involved. I think it's going to be a good time. Rise (Meguiar, vice president of sales, 5-Hour Energy) is probably the biggest asset we have for 5-Hour. She is a race fan at heart. She understands the industry. She works hard at it. She's here day in and day out. Once I met Rise, this was the sponsor for me. She's obviously energetic. She's a perfect fit for 5-Hour Energy shot and it's been a lot of fun so far and I just can't wait to go on through the years with these folks."
Why did you choose Michael Waltrip Racing?
"Obviously, you have decisions to make. You go around and you talk to teams. I see a young, aggressive team. A great backing with Toyota behind them in a down market. I see a young, energetic sponsor in the same boat. Both of them are pushing forward. They're spending. I see this as an opportunity to catch up, period. I think that there's no question MWR has done a great job with marketing for their sponsors and keeping sponsors. Better than anybody in the garage area. I see their performance improving week in and week out, so I had to work my butt off to make sure I was on top of them before I walked into this deal here. I just see this as a wonderful opportunity for me to prove myself to everybody. I mean, when you go into RCR (Richard Childress Racing) that has already won many championships and had the success Richard's (Childress) had, you're just kind of another guy there. If we can go on and put them in the Chase and continue to move forward with MWR, you're going to build your brand even better."
Did Michael Waltrip Racing hiring Scott Miller impact your decision?
"Yeah, Scott Miller (executive vice president of competition, MWR) is a great friend. Obviously, as soon as I heard they were talking to Scott Miller, it definitely tripped my trigger. He's a go-getter, influential in everything that has happened at RCR (Richard Childress Racing) and I know he's going to be a great asset for MWR. Just a great guy, a good leader and all around great person to be around."
When did you get the feeling that you wouldn't be staying at Richard Childress Racing?
"I'd say that day came when we went and talked to them about the 5-Hour Energy deal and they still couldn't put a deal together, so I said, 'Well, alright we'll go somewhere else.' That's probably ultimately led to leaving RCR (Richard Childress Racing). I've never been a guy that needs to be the number one guy or second tier or anything else. I think that's what kills organizations is when you're racing within the organization. You've got to be able to pull on the rope in the same direction and if you're not you can't move forward. I just want to be able to be an asset to help out and move forward in building this thing. Everybody knows we've got room to improve and I look forward to the opportunity to try and make it happen."
When did your relationship with 5-Hour Energy begin?
"It was probably about three months ago. That was the biggest thing going back to what led to the decision of going to Michael Waltrip (Racing). I've never been in that situation. I've never had a sponsor that came to me and said, 'We would like to have you. You're the asset. Where are we going to go to build a program?' So, not only was I looking out for myself, now I'm looking out for a sponsor too. I've got to go to an organization to where I could continue to build their brand and make sure I could continue to bring that sponsor with me as I go on through the years. That was something that was new to me. Usually, you took care of number one and let them do their business, but I felt like I was obligated to help them make the right decision and be influential in their decision as well. Like I said, they take care of their sponsors. Even back when they first started and wasn't making races they kept those sponsors even today. So, if you can have that combination and get the performance out on the race track you're going to have a deadly combination."
Why couldn't you get a deal done with Richard Childress Racing?
"We're not here to talk about that. We're here to talk about the future and it just didn't work out. It was a shame. Like I said, I owe a great deal to Richard (Richard). It was just a few miles down the road I was standing in a body shop when that man called me. I will never forget that day and I owe a lot to him for that, but I also owe him this opportunity as well."
What does it mean to have this announcement take place in your home state?
"It was big. We were trying to talk and she (Rise Meguiar, 5-Hour Energy) said, 'Well, we've got to announce this right now.' Well, let's wait for Kansas, it would be big. And, boy, that was a miserable few weeks having to hold you guys off. The vultures were out wanting to know and wanting the first story. You guys are doing your job, but oh my god. It makes it to where you don't even want to come out of the motorhome and then sprint to the car and get in and put your helmet on real quick."
Is there any significance to the No. 15?
"The 15 was just -- there were some options that they threw out there and I just liked the 15. Obviously, I'm a racer and I want to be closer to number one than 100. It was obviously good to Michael (Waltrip). I'm big on Daytona. That's one of my favorite race tracks and that number was pretty good to him there so hopefully we can get us one of these days. The biggest thing when I was hung up on was when you put a number on a dirt car it looks stupid if it's leaning forward. I like it leaning backwards. I had to slick that thing up a little bit. It resembled a little too much of the old days."
What makes you think that you can perform strong at Michael Waltrip Racing?
"I think timing is everything. It's so weird how all of this has happened. The minute one door closes, it's like somebody is looking after you and just kind of putting me on this path. As one door would close the other one would open and it was almost like the very next step. It didn't matter who you were talking to, there was a closed door and an opened door and it just kind of led to this. I truly feel like this is where I'm supposed to be and I think that is a great thing. I think the timing side of it is good. I really do think a company that is young and aggressive with the funding, the backing -- not only with the sponsors but with a partner like Rob Kauffman. I think he's the guy that not a lot of people hear about. This man means business. He's a business guy. That's what he does for a living. He buys distressed properties, distressed businesses and restructures them and puts the right funding in and turns them into a profit. He has past success with what he does. He's a billionaire and billionaires have success and make things work. I'm excited about working with Rob and I feel like this is an opportunity for a young company like MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) to catch up to some of these other companies that are more established."