At the end of 2019, Clint Bowyer‘s contract with Stewart-Haas Racing expires. He’s spent the last three seasons with the team, and while the pair have produced two wins together, snapping Bowyer’s six-year winless streak last year, the No. 14 hasn’t been anywhere close to winning a championship.
Bye Bye Bowyer
With Bowyer’s contract with the team ending after this season, Stewart-Haas Racing shouldn’t re-sign him for 2020.
The organization hasn’t won a race so far this Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and Bowyer is in 12th place in the point standings.
This year, Bowyer has struggled. He has failed to finish on the lead lap in five of the 15 races. That’s one-third of races where he hasn’t been on the lead lap. For a winning organization like SHR, those numbers are unacceptable.
Furthermore, Bowyer has only led 42 laps, a far cry from his 490 led laps in 2018. He has zero playoff points so far, meaning he hasn’t even raced upfront early in races. SHR co-owner Tony Stewart expects better.
This past weekend at Michigan International Speedway, Bowyer crashed out of the race and voiced his displeasure about the racing action afterward.
"This isn't racing. I'm just biting my tongue." pic.twitter.com/fB2rohstMG
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) June 10, 2019
Regardless of what changes NASCAR makes to the rules package for next season, Bowyers’ frustrations revealed he isn’t adapting well to the package. In order to be a successful Cup Series driver, one must keep up with the times. Bowyer has not.
Bowyer just turned 40 years old. He hasn’t finished inside the top 10 in the point standings in the Cup Series since 2013, well before his SHR days. He is past his prime and he doesn’t bring much sponsorship.
SHR must look toward its future, and a struggling 40-year-old driver who doesn’t bring much money isn’t exactly a wise choice. This is why Bowyer should not be a part of SHR in 2020.
And if SHR declines to re-sign Bowyer for 2020, he will still find a ride in the Cup Series next year. He’s a seasoned veteran who likes to have fun, and has won 10 races. He would be a perfect fit for Front Row Motorsports where he could mentor young Matt Tifft and promote the teams’ sponsors on social media. Plus, he is more talented than Michael McDowell and David Ragan.
Another reason SHR also shouldn’t re-sign Bowyer is because they have his replacement waiting in the Xfinity Series in Cole Custer. Custer is 21 years old, and the son of SHR executive Joe Custer.
The younger Custer is also pretty talented. In 2018, he made the Xfinity Series’ Championship 4 round, and he ultimately finished second in the point standings. He has won five career Xfinity races, three coming this season. He has led at least 300 laps in each of his three NXS seasons. Custer is ready to compete in the Cup Series.
Bowyer has good equipment, good teammates and a good team surrounding him. So why can’t he emerge as a regular threat to win races? He won two races last season, but it had been nearly six years since his most recent victory before then.
SHR demands that its drivers race upfront and contend for wins on a frequent basis. Bowyer has not accomplished that, and he doesn’t appear to be headed in that direction. If Custer continues his current trajectory, SHR would be foolish not to promote him into the Cup Series as the driver of its No. 14 Ford. -Mark Kristl
Can’t Have Enough Bowyer
Stewart-Haas Racing shouldn’t give up on Bowyer just yet.
Yes, he has struggled mightily this season and hasn’t been a championship threat in his two and a half years with the team. Yes, Custer absolutely deserves one of the team’s Cup rides next year. But not the No. 14.
SHR has yet to visit victory lane this season — and that’s a stable that includes Kevin Harvick — so clearly they’ve fallen a little behind Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske. But Bowyer has still been ultra competitive. Yes, he failed to finish on the lead lap in five races, crashing out of two and overheating in one. But in most of those instances, Bowyer was trying to make something happen.
In the Daytona 500 for example, Bowyer was doing everything he could to try to win the race. He had a huge head of steam and took a gamble to try to clear himself in front of McDowell. He didn’t quite have the No. 34 clear and caused a huge wreck as a result.
If I’m a team owner, then, of course, I’m mad that Bowyer tore up the equipment, but I’m happy to see that he’s going for the win. He’s not content riding in the top five. That hunger for victory would be enough for me to keep him around.
Despite the bad results, Bowyer still has five top fives and eight top 10s. So he’s been in the top five in one-third of the races. A washed-up driver certainly doesn’t do that. Harvick likewise has five top fives so far this season. If you’re putting up stats that match Harvick, then you deserve to keep your job a little while longer.
Whereas the other two SHR drivers, Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola, have a combined three top fives. Bowyer has more top 10s than Suarez and just as many as Almirola. In order to win, a driver first has to consistently run up front, and it sounds like Bowyer is one of the top cars far more than Suarez and Almirola.
It’s been a year since he last won, but Bowyer still won two races last year a number that matches Almirola’s career total and is two more than Suarez has in his three-year career.
What makes Almirola and Suarez bigger commodities is they have sponsors that are dedicated to them. Almirola has Smithfield Foods, and Suarez has Arris, while Bowyer has no sponsors of his own. Suarez is also a free agent at the end of the season, but if Arris wants to continue to back him then I couldn’t imagine SHR letting him go after just one season.
But as for Almirola, Smithfield’s contract is up at the end of the year as well. He finished fifth in points and won at Talladega Superspeedway last year, but Almirola hasn’t proved to be a dominant driver. Should Smithfield choose to no longer support him or want a different driver in its new deal, then SHR should keep Bowyer over Almirola and put Custer in the No. 10.
Almirola is consistent, but I can’t picture him winning tons of races and competing for championships. He’s amazing at superspeedways, but Bowyer has two superspeedway races as well. Plus, he’s won at every other type of racetrack. Bowyer should’ve been the 2012 Cup champion (Jeff Gordon intentionally wrecked him in the penultimate race to prevent him from doing so), and that talent is still in there.
Just because he’s 40 years old, doesn’t mean Bowyer is washed up. Statistically, a driver doesn’t hit their prime until 38 or 39 years old. Based on that, Bowyer should have a few more years of talent up his sleeve. Once SHR finds the speed this year, he’ll be back in victory lane before we know it.
Plus, why get rid of a guy this fun? –Michael Massie
— Michael Massie (@m_massie22) June 1, 2019
About the author
Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.