10/13/11 Clint Bowyer approached Richard Childress in midsummer with a sponsor in hand (5-Hour Energy) to support him in the 2012 season. The Hall of Fame NASCAR team owner turned down the offer from a driver that he discovered in the minor leagues and brought to the Sprint Cup Series.
Bowyer's backing was worth an estimated $10 million, and when RCR said no, he took his talent and sponsorship to Michael Waltrip Racing. 5-Hour Energy will back Bowyer, who has made the Chase in three of his six full Cup seasons, at MWR for 24 races next season.
It's commonplace these days, with the high cost of running a 36-race schedule plus the Daytona preliminary and Sprint All-Star races, for cars to share primary sponsors. Childress had sufficient time and a Chase-quality driver so he should have had no trouble selling the rest of the package. It's stunning that he didn't even try.
"I'd say [the decision to leave RCR] came when we went and talked to them about the 5-Hour Energy deal and they still couldn't put a [full-schedule] deal together," Bowyer said. "So, I said, 'Well, all right, we'll go somewhere else.' That probably ultimately led to leaving RCR."
It appears that Childress was never serious about trying to retain Bowyer. That's not a knock of Bowyer's talent. Evidence exists that Childress was clearing the way to bring grandson Austin Dillon into Cup in 2013 or 2014.
Dillon, 21, is a good prospect. He has four wins the past two seasons and is leading NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series. Dillon will move up to the Nationwide Series next year. He made his Cup debut at Kansas last Sunday in an RCR-prepared Chevrolet crewed by his Truck team and finished 26th. It probably wasn't a coincidence that Dillon's first race in Cup came on the same weekend Bowyer announced he was leaving. Childress was previewing the future of his organization. SI.com