June 26, 2012
By Doug Demmons
Michael Waltrip should sign Clint Bowyer to one of those lifetime contracts that Rick Hendrick gave to Jeff Gordon.
If ever there was a team owner and driver made for each other it’s these two -- the dirt guy from Kansas and the good ole boy from Kentucky. After Bowyer’s win at Sonoma on Sunday, he and Waltrip held court in the media center in a manner that hasn’t been seen since the last time an MWR driver won.
And it was purely by chance that they ended up with each other.
It was only four years ago at Bristol that Bowyer got in a wreck and famously blamed it on Waltrip and his No. 55 NAPA Toyota.
“Michael Waltrip is the worst driver in NASCAR, period,” Bowyer said over the radio right after the wreck. “Could not believe NAPA signed back on.”
It’s a good thing for both of them that comments made in the heat of the moment aren’t always taken personally -- because at the end of last season Bowyer found himself out of his primetime ride at Richard Childress Racing and Waltrip was looking for a replacement for David Reutimann.
What seemed like a rather ironic pairing when it was announced makes perfect sense today.
“Very nerve racking times in the wintertime,” Bowyer said of time between losing his ride at Childress and signing with MWR. “Basically kind of lost my ride at RCR, walked into a new program with a lot of unknowns, and I had a lot of confidence in what was going on. I still had confidence in myself. Michael, Rob Kaufmann, everybody involved with MWR, paired me with (crew chief) Brian Pattie and paired me with a lot of good people and that's what it takes to be successful in any good business and NASCAR racing is no exception.”
Pattie was another castaway who found his way to the shores of MWR Island, having been cast adrift by Penske Racing.
“It means a lot to me,” Pattie said Sunday during the team’s post-race interview as he sat with Waltrip and Bowyer. “I was in the same boat he was. He lost his ride and I lost my job.”
“We are a place for refugees,” Bowyer said.
“These two didn't have anywhere to go,” Waltrip said to laughter.
“Last summer was eye-opening for me personally and career-wise,” Pattie said. “Had a lot of supporters called whenever times changed at my previous employer, and I'm just blessed to be here.”
That’s often the way it works in NASCAR. Drivers, crew chiefs and crew members bounce from one team to another until they find their perfect fit. And it is often for reasons that have nothing to do with talent or drive or experience and everything to do with chemistry.
Losing his ride at Childress may prove in the end to be the best thing that ever happened to Bowyer.
And if the racing thing doesn’t work out, Waltrip and Bowyer can always try stand-up comedy.
“Why are we out here in wine country drinking water?” Waltrip asked. “I'm ready to celebrate.”
“That's what you'll do when you get through with your post-race availability,” NASCAR’s moderator told him.
“You can't show up late and raise your hands for one more question,” Bowyer responded to a reporter wanting to ask a question of a driver who was ready to get the party started.
“There was this one time,” Waltrip interjected, “when they didn't have any wine, they had water, and Jesus turned it into wine.”
Doug Demmons is a writer and editor for the Birmingham News ~ he writes daily and weekly auto racing columns ranging from NASCAR to open wheel to Formula One, local tracks and more... you can read Doug's columns online at ALABAMA MOTORSPORTS
Follow Doug on Twitter: @dougdemmons
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.