Heading into 2015, each Sprint Cup Series team laid out their plans and performance goals for the upcoming season and no one ever said, “we’re gonna suck.” No matter what level they rank in the performance pecking order, the picture was always bright, the flowers were blooming and rainbows filled the sky. Sadly, in order to have rainbows, there has to be rain and, aside from the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, there’s been nothing but a deluge at Michael Waltrip Racing.
The team had hoped they could shake the bad luck it has had for going on three years. Brian Vickers would make his return to the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine and new dad, Clint Bowyer, was full of life and lightheartedness just eight weeks ago.
Now, to quote Bowyer, “We’re so screwed up it ain’t even funny. This is embarrassing.”
Those were just some of the comments he made during Saturday’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway as he explained to his crew chief, Brian Pattie, just how bad his car was running. In fact, he was running so bad that, early in the race, the No. 51 of Justin Allgaier knocked him out of the way.
At one point, the radio chatter between the spotter, Pattie and Bowyer was so heated it should have had an Adult Content warning. But even at his worst, Bowyer’s wit hits the mark when his performance falls short.
When Pattie told Bowyer the leader was “about 15 in front of us” and that Bowyer was running him down to get a lap back, Bowyer fired back, “Well, we can’t see that mother—-er.”
The conversation was indicative of Bowyer’s season overall. There are seven races in the books and it can’t just be a “Toyota thing.” The Toyotas at Joe Gibbs Racing seem to be improving with Carl Edwards picking up his first top 10 of the season. His teammate Denny Hamlin finished 11th and fill-in driver David Ragan brought the No. 18 home in 13th. Matt Kenseth finished one spot behind Bowyer and he had heavy damage on the right side of the car.
So, you can pretty much take that it’s a “Toyota thing” and toss it out the window.
Adding insult to injury, NASCAR took Bowyer’s car back to the R&D Center in Concord, N.C. for a thorough shakedown. There was nothing nefarious or sinister intimated – the No. 15 was truly the random car picked. Damn, the luck. However, some joked that maybe NASCAR could figure out why they are running so bad.
This is Bowyer’s 10th full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and back in January he was very candid that this was an important year for him. He knew going into 2015 that he and the team needed to perform well, especially after things fell apart in 2014.
Whatever the problem, it’s far enough down the road that the entire organization needs to worry. Luckily, for Bowyer, the silver lining to the dark cloud hanging over him is that, under NASCAR’s new championship format, if he can pull through for a win he’ll make it to the Chase for the Championship. So there’s still hope, no matter how bleak it might appear at the moment.