By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into February’s running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: 14
Career Wins: 10
From having his brightest Cup season in recent memory in 2018 to an even stronger yet forgotten campaign despite not winning any races.
Clint Bowyer’s 2019 campaign can be best described as vocalizing due to his highlights being either revered by many or controversial by others.
Whether it’s his unforgettable takes on the “epic fail” that was group qualifying at Fontana and Texas or confronting drivers Erik Jones (Kansas) and Ryan Newman (All-Star Race at Charlotte), Bowyer wasn’t afraid to let anyone know how he’s feeling.
However, those highlight reels completely overshadowed Bowyer’s finest season in a year that his other Stewart-Haas Racing teammates not named Kevin Harvick, struggled finding pace with the new Ford Mustang and rules package.
The 40-year-old veteran actually had his finest season since 2013 where improved from 12th to a ninth-place points finish and scored 18 top-10s. Both Bowyer’s top-10 campaign and scoring top-10s at least half the time were firsts since that campaign when he drove for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Vocal he might’ve been about qualifying formats, Bowyer did in fact had his greatest season when it comes to laying down a flyer. An average start 10.7 is a career best and a pole at the September Las Vegas race marked his first Busch Pole Award since the week of his maiden Cup win at Loudon in September 2007 (431 races).
Two things set him back that cannot be afforded in 2020 such as DNFs setting him back from an even stronger campaign as Bowyer retired seven times to six from the year before.
Consistency was also a burden for the No. 14 team as modest runs in the Round of 12 weren’t enough to get him deep into the championship hunt. Along with a track bar issue knocked him out of Martinsville kept him out of the top-10 points table for much of the year.
Afterwards, strong finishes were steadily happening as three straight top-15s in the final three races, including a sixth at Homestead, capped off the late-season consistency which resulted into his ninth-place points finish.
“I’m proud of our efforts there,” Bowyer after Homestead. “We stubbed our toe one or two races and had some crummy luck at actually some good tracks for us – Martinsville – kind of got us behind the eight ball and kind of knocked us out of that Round of 8.
“That hurt us, but, all in all, we rise to the occasion in the playoffs and ran our best all year long in the playoffs, so I was proud of those efforts.”
While the efforts were admirable, Bowyer will enter the new season with a different crew chief. Gone is Mike Bugarewicz, who moves to Aric Almirola’s No. 10 team, and in comes Almirola’s old crew chief John Klausmeier.
Greg Zipadelli, Vice President of Competition at SHR, said the decision of swapping crew chiefs came down to what’s best for driver improvement.
“Our biggest asset at Stewart-Haas Racing is our people, and we strive to put each person in the best position to succeed,” Zipadelli said. “Our driver/crew chief pairings for next season reflect this ideology, and we believe this lineup provides the best opportunity to win every time we unload our Ford Mustangs at the racetrack.”
One thing is certain about Bowyer, his passion for racing and what’s on his mind will be evident and 2020 shouldn’t be any different as he’ll enter the 62nd Daytona 500, hoping his 57-race winless streak will end.