After Clint Bowyer announced that he would be joining Michael Waltrip Racing last October, questions were raised about whether or not he would have the success he previously had with Richard Childress Racing.
After all, Michael Watrip Racing has only won two races since they began racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2007.
When the 2012 season began, no one expected MWR to be a title contender (let alone make the Chase). But with a pair of victories at Infineon and Richmond, Bowyer piloted the #15 5-Hour Energy Toyota to its first ever Chase appearance in MWR history.
While Brad Kesoloweski, Denny Hamlin, and Jimmie Johnson controlled the first half of the Chase, Bowyer and the rest of the Chase field were falling behind. Despite that, Bowyer quietly worked his way into the top-5 in the Chase standings with a 2 top-10's, and 1 top-10 finish.
While eyes are on Hamlin, Johnson, and Kesoloweski for the Sprint Cup, it looks like there could be another driver to keep an eye on.
After winning the fuel millage game at Charlotte last Saturday night, Bowyer and the #15 team appear to be back in the title hunt as they are only 28 points behind Kesoloweski (and 13 points behind Hamlin).
But are they true contenders for the Sprint Cup title like Kesoloweski, Johnson, and Hamlin?
Don't get me wrong. They are a great team. They have been able to make great pit-stops and decisions to gain track position and win races, but in order for them to be able to compete with the likes of the 2, 11, and the 48 for the Sprint Cup, Bowyer is going to have to have consistent top-5 finishes from here on out and be able to run with the likes of Hamlin, Johnson, and Kesoloweski. He may need to win another race or two.
All in all, Scott Miller, the competition director for Michael Waltrip Racing, has done a terrific job making all three MWR teams competitive in the Sprint Cup Series this year. If they continue to be competitive down the line in the future, there is no doubt that they will become one of the premier teams in the Sprint Cup Series.
But as far as the 2012 season is concerned, Clint Bowyer is going to need a magical second-half of the Chase for him to have a mathematical shot at the Sprint Cup come Homestead.