Clint Bowyer: Expectations Raised for MWR Driver After Stellar First Half

Ben MontedonicoContributor IIIJuly 10, 2012

The first half of 2012 has been very good to Clint Bowyer
The first half of 2012 has been very good to Clint BowyerTodd Warshaw/Getty Images

Clint Bowyer has been one of the bigger surprises through the first half of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

Through 18 races, Bowyer sits 10th in the standings, hanging onto the final guaranteed spot in NASCAR's race for the Chase.

Three races ago at Sonoma, Bowyer broke through for his first road course victory and his first win driving for his new team, Michael Waltrip Racing.

To go along with his sixth career win, Bowyer has earned three top fives and nine top 10s, making the first half of 2012 the best start to a season of his career.

"I think we've exceeded all expectations," Bowyer said in Tuesday's NASCAR Media Teleconference. "That's MWR across the board."

Success has been the epidemic among the MWR organization in 2012. Bowyer's teammate, Martin Truex, Jr., currently sits eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings with four top fives and nine top 10s.

Meanwhile, Mark Martin, Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip have combined to earn four top fives and eight top 10s while splitting time in the third MWR entry.

The surge of Michael Waltrip Racing has been one of the truly great storylines in a 2012 season that has been, to this point, lackluster.

Prior to the 2012 season, MWR had never placed a car in the 10-race Chase. In fact, the best a driver from the MWR stable had ever finished in the standings prior to this year was 16th, where David Reutimann finished in 2009.

The team's performance to this point may have surprised Bowyer, but not because he felt the team was incapable of such a feat.

"That's not because I didn't think that they were capable or anything else," Bowyer continued. "But it's off the simple facts that they've never produced these kind of results before."

Bowyer called being part of the MWR surge "gratifying and a lot of fun," but after having such a successful first half of 2012, he understands the expectations are far greater for the second half.

"Usually I win later in the year," Bowyer said. "So to have that victory relatively early in the season for me was cool, really fun, and it changes expectations."

Just how much does it change expectations?

"Now I feel like we can make this Chase," he continued. "I feel like we can compete in this Chase and be a top five team within the Chase."

Bowyer certainly has experience in being a top five driver in the Chase. In just his second Sprint Cup season, Bowyer recorded a career-best third-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings in 2007 and followed that up with a fifth-place effort in 2008.

Bowyer also tends to come on strong later in the year, with four of his six Sprint Cup victories coming in the second half of the season.

Of those four second-half victories, all of them have come in the Chase.

So what exactly can we expect from Bowyer in the second half of 2012? Probably more of the same, if not better.

"I think as competitive as this sport is right now," Bowyer concludes, "if you're a top five team the chase, you're going to have a shot at a championship."

All quotes were obtained via NASCAR Media Teleconference with Clint Bowyer unless otherwise noted. For the full transcript of the Teleconference, click here.