By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor
*Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for 24 drivers. We will release one driver preview per day over a 24-day stretch.
Years in Cup: 12
Career Wins: 8
Biggest Accomplishment: Three win season in 2012 leading to runner-up finish in season standings
There is likely no driver more excited for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season than Clint Bowyer. After suffering through his worst season to date in 2016, Bowyer finally gets to climb behind the wheel of the No. 14 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing, which was vacated after Tony Stewart’s retirement at the end of the 2016 season.
After signing with Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of 2015, Bowyer found a ride with HScott Motorsports for the 2016 season while he waited for Stewart to retire and the seat of the No. 14 to open up for 2017. With Bowyer’s driving talent, the thought was that he could help the small team raise their performance level and prepare them for more success in the future. However, the 2016 season was anything but successful for Bowyer and HScott Motorsports.
In 36 starts, Bowyer finished in the top-10 just three times, with an eighth place finish at Bristol, a seventh place finish at Talladega, and a ninth place finish at Daytona in July. In addition, Bowyer only led three laps on the year and finished with the worst average finish of his career at 23.6 to end the season ranked 27th in points.
Needless to say, Bowyer is glad to be moving onto greener pastures for the 2017 season.
“What an unbelievable opportunity, just to think how my year started. You know, you thought you were set, you thought you were good, then all of a sudden you’re not, then all of a sudden that led to a door opening in one of the biggest powerhouses in the sport. That to me is what this world is all about is opportunities, and certainly with that opportunity, the unfortunate thing is you lose one of the boys, one of the guys that I’ve always had a lot of fun with, enjoyed, whether it was racing alongside of him or beating him, banging on him and bickering about it afterwards, I always enjoyed the fact that Tony Stewart’s character was on the racetrack,” said Bowyer in his 2015 press conference announcing his move to Stewart-Haas Racing.
“That being said, damn, I’m glad that you (Stewart) decided to retire and open this seat up for me, but you know, it’s just all about people, it’s all about culture for me, and I think the fit factor couldn’t be any better.
“Rodney, I’ve worked with him at MWR, Kevin, most of my career, I’ve raced alongside Kevin Harvick, just Zippy, when I talk to him, just the communication is so easy, Tony, when we talk about this, and Brett. There’s so many good people here, and that’s why they have the success that they do. Gene, you know, the‑‑ everything that he’s created, just like he said, the platform that he built and instilled in Stewart‑Haas Racing is something that is definitely there seeing the horizon and his F1 team is exciting. Just knowing your name is attached to all this is something I’m really looking forward to and very proud of.”
While there may be some growing pains for Bowyer in 2017 as he gets acclimated to a new team and manufacturer, there is no doubt that the Kansas native should be able to be competitive once again as he looks for his first win in the Cup Series since his three win season in 2012. With his teammates to lean on, Bowyer should be able to accomplish that feat with relative ease to qualify for the Chase and go after his first championship.
Bowyer may not be able to make it all the way to Homestead, but he sure will make some noise throughout the season to set his team up for success for years to come.
If you needed any more convincing evidence that Bowyer is ready to get the 2017 season started, take a look at his tweet from earlier this month in regards to Ford unveiling the paint schemes for the Stewart-Haas Racing drivers.
Let’s go line them babies up right damn NOW!!!! 💪 https://t.co/L3MQpLLA6i
— Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) January 4, 2017
Other 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Driver Previews
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.