RELATED: Bowyer free to pursue 2016 opportunities MORE: MWR won't field full-time team in 2016 BRISTOL, Tenn. – Clint Bowyer said his racing future "is uncertain right now" as he prepares to finish out the season with Michael Waltrip Racing before an expected move to a new employer in 2016. Earlier this week, MWR officials announced Bowyer , 36, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series organization had "mutually agreed" to end their relationship at the conclusion of the '15 season. The two-team outfit, which fields the No. 55 Toyota for driver David Ragan in addition to the No. 15 of Bowyer , will not field a full-time Sprint Cup effort next year. "It's a tough time for everybody involved," Bowyer said Friday morning at Bristol Motor Speedway, site of Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "It's unfortunate. "The truth is we're eight months into a three-year commitment to one another. I had a great four years at this company; great culture, great personnel at MWR. I really did enjoy the years that I spent there. "That being said Rob (Kauffman, MWR co-owner) ... invested a lot into this sport. It's a business decision to move forward on his end. That's where our futures ... unfortunately just don't align anymore." WATCH: Bowyer , Kauffman expound on MWR split The timing of the announcement was crucial, Bowyer said, to allow employees at MWR to understand and digest the situation and focus on the remainder of the '15 season. "These employees ... are real people, with real lives with real families and a lot at stake," he said. "They are racers, just like I am. But the racer in you doesn't change the reality side of life. And the reality is you need to provide for your family. "I thought it was extremely important ... to get in front of that and I owed it to these employees to get this done as soon as possible, even knowing where we're at on the bubble and everything in the Chase. I think being honest and straightforward and doing that for these people in the long run will set them up to make the most out of a difficult situation." Bowyer is an eight-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series, with three of those wins coming with MWR, which he joined in 2012. He finished a career-best second in the Chase for the Sprint Cup battle in his first year with the organization. W ATCH: Rob Kauffman about MWR, Bowyer decisions Heading into Saturday night's race at BMS, Bowyer is 15th in points with one top-five and nine top-10 finishes. Eleven of the 16 available Chase slots have been secured (as long as those drivers remain in the top 30 in points), leaving Bowyer and a handful of others battling for one of the five remaining positions. As for what the 2016 season and beyond may hold, Bowyer appears to be keeping all options open at this point. "Absolutely," he said. "... What I'm going to have in the future ... will be another announcement and I'll tell you as soon as possible. It's as simple as that. "I'm confident in the sport, I love this sport and the sport has been good to me and my family -- (I've) had a lot of great partners and a lot of great organizations that I've worked for, and I see no reason why somebody that works hard and wants it like I do ... can't have a job for as long as they want." PHOTOS: MWR through the years
A look at the inspiration for Clint Bowyer's Darlington paint scheme.
RELATED: MWR won't field full-time entries in 2016 Wednesday's news that Michael Waltrip Racing won't be fielding full-time Sprint Cup Series teams in 2016 essentially turns the team's lead driver, Clint Bowyer , into one of NASCAR's highest profile free agents. MWR and Bowyer agreed to mutually part ways at the end of the season, freeing the 2012 championship runner-up to look for a new ride and making his current title run an important resume-builder. Bowyer is currently ranked 16th in the 16-driver Chase Grid standings with a slim 23-point edge over Aric Almirola for the final Chase berth with three races remaining to set the field. MORE: Toyota thanks MWR, supports Bowyer "I am looking forward to what future opportunities may come but for now we have a championship to pursue in 2015 and we owe it to every one of our sponsors, partners, employees and fans to deliver on and off the track,” Bowyer said in a statement released Tuesday announcing his and the MWR team's plans. "I want to thank Michael, Rob (Kauffman) and everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing that made these past four years special. After extensive discussions with Rob and MWR, we came to the point that we mutually agreed our paths in the future just didn’t align, but I think we all agreed on the next steps in a very professional manner." It's clear they are committed to that path. Waltrip discussed Bowyer's Chase scenario and his inspired motivation on FOX Sports 1 this morning after spending time with Bowyer at the team shop Wednesday morning. "I'm going to tell you, that's how fast your Chase world can change,'' Waltrip said. " Clint was not only 15th in the points, some 60 to the good, he was within striking distance of being 11th, up there where Jamie McMurray is. And had a crash at Michigan with a really fast car, had a crash and it set him back. "But I tell ya, it's inspired Bowyer . I know there's a lot of news around Michael Waltrip Racing , but he was at the shop today, talking to the team and said, 'Boys, we're going to race our way into this Chase, and when we get there, we're gonna go some rounds.' And that's the kind of attitude you need from your race car driver and that's the kind of attitude Clint has." Beyond his showing in this year's championship run, the big question is what's next for Bowyer , considered one of the NASCAR's top-shelf competitors and one of its most popular personalities. There will be plenty of speculation, however, Bowyer hasn't said anything beyond the statement issued Tuesday. The 36-year-old Kansas native is the 2008 XFINITY Series champion and has eight wins in 10 full-time Cup seasons, finishing second to Brad Keselowski in the 2012 championship, his first year with MWR. It's reasonable to consider one option for Bowyer is to follow his boss Kauffman to the Chip Ganassi Racing stable next season and bring his longtime sponsor 5-hour Energy to a third Chevrolet there. Sponsor 5-hour Energy released a statement about the MWR news, as well."5-Hour ENERGY has enjoyed a great relationship with Michael Waltrip Racing and Clint Bowyer since joining forces in 2012. MWR and Clint have delivered above and beyond with our partnership and we thank them for their dedication. Clint is a great amassador for our products, customers and retailers," the release read. "The MWR team and Clint will continue to remain focused on getting 5-hour ENERGY in the Chase. We will make no further comment until we are ready to announce our future plans." Kauffman, who became a co-owner and major investor in MWR in 2007, announced earlier this month that he had also invested in the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team. Sabates confirmed that the organization would expand to three cars in 2016, but no further details have been released. Another option down the road for Bowyer may include Furniture Row Racing , which is reportedly considering expanding to two teams. However, the team's general manager, Joe Garone told FOXSports in June that adding a second car wasn't realistic until at least 2017 and even then, it would be ambitious. The team's current driver, another former MWR driver, Martin Truex Jr . , is having a career year with the team and ranks eighth in the Chase Grid. There is also speculation that Bowyer's future could include a job at Stewart-Haas Racing should its co-owner and three-time championship driver Tony Stewart retire and leave an open seat. However Stewart has not publicly indicated he has any timetable to retire.
Steve O'Donnell talks about Rob Kauffman's importance in NASCAR and also believes Clint Bowyer will find a new home.
RELATED: Full results from Bristol " Updated standings BRISTOL, Tenn. -- After the tumultuous week that was for Michael Waltrip Racing , the embattled team was neatly set up for a double ray of Saturday night sunshine in the sport's most prestigious nighttime event. The much-needed shot in the arm wound up being a split decision at Bristol Motor Speedway, owing to a doubly unfortunate late-race collision between the organization's two teammates. Clint Bowyer 's determined drive in Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race wrapped up a fifth-place finish, the No. 15 Toyota team's fourth top-10 effort in the last five events and a solidifying boost to his Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs footing. Teammate David Ragan -- poised to join his teammate in the front-running quintet -- exited early, catching the worst of the Lap 371 tangle that dented both MWR entries. RELATED: See what happened to Ragan "Damn, you hate to have two good cars and the last person you want to get into and have trouble with is your teammate," Bowyer said. "I've been sick to death about that. We had two top-five cars and MWR really needed that run." Michael Waltrip Racing announced Wednesday that it would cease its full schedule of Sprint Cup participation at season's end, granting Bowyer his release. But in the same announcement, team co-owner Rob Kauffman stressed that "MWR will race hard and compete for the remainder of the 2015 season." RELATED: MWR won't field full-time entries in 2016 Both Bowyer and Ragan clearly took the "race hard" portion of the statement to heart, putting both cars into the top 10 of the starting lineup. Ragan moved as high as third in the running order, picking up six spots on a long green-flag run after the 500-lapper's midway point. That charge placed him right behind Bowyer , who stormed into the top five after a series of early gains. The high hopes went haywire, though, just four laps after a Lap 368 restart. Bowyer and Ragan bottled up on the low side of Jimmie Johnson 's No. 48 Chevrolet, which forced the two MWR cars to make contact in a three-abreast clash at the exit of Turn 2. Ragan's No. 55 Toyota spun low, resulting in severe contact with the inside retaining wall. Bowyer righted himself and continued, but made contact with Brad Keselowski 's No. 2 Ford at the end of the straightaway, looping the No. 15. From there, Bowyer was able to stay on the lead lap and methodically rally again, edging Keselowski for the last spot among the top five. "We desperately needed a solid run right there," Bowyer said. "I mean, obviously, you're hungry for a win with this organization giving everything it had. I drove my ass off. It just ... we just came up short. I’m really proud of all of these guys on the 5-hour Energy Toyota. They're digging, man. It's fun to be a part of this. It's fun to be a part of a group that can answer the call when you gotta dig down and reach down a little bit more to get in that Chase and be a part of that elite group. These guys are up for the challenge." The outcome was more disheartening for Ragan, who was closing in on his first top-five or top-10 since joining Michael Waltrip Racing as an interim driver in May. "It's uncalled for to get wrecked and to be involved in a wreck like that but all in all just one of those racing things," Ragan said. "… Anytime you're in that top five or with a chance to win, it's disappointing. This is one of my favorite races and we did the best we could." MWR's silver lining, though, came from Bowyer , who improved his grip on the 16th and final berth in the provisional Chase grid. His top-five allowed him to increase his margin from 23 to 35 points over nearest challenger Aric Almirola , Saturday night's 17th-place finisher. Though the No. 15 team is mindful of what it needs to become playoff-eligible in the remaining two regular-season races, crew chief Billy Scott said the crew hasn't let it alter their strategy or outlook. "We try to put that on the back burner," Scott said. "Until Richmond, it really doesn't matter. All you can do is look after yourself and get the best finish we can right now. When we get down to the last few at Richmond, it might matter with your strategy a little bit to keep an eye on where they are, but if we keep doing what we need to, it'll take care of itself."
See the No. 15 Toyota's paint scheme for Labor Day weekend MORE: Buy tickets for Darlington " See more throwback paint schemes for Darlington SHOP: Darlington gear Clint Bowyer is really turning the clocks back with his throwback paint scheme for the Bojangles' Southern 500 (Sept. 6, 7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Darlington Raceway. Bowyer took to Instagram to reveal details about the look his No. 15 Toyota will sport. As Bowyer wrote on Instagram: "The scheme connects two of the sport's very best, car owner Bud Moore and the late Buddy Baker. To make it a TRUE throwback this baby is totally hand painted front to back. Now let's go make buddy proud!!!" In another post, the Michael Waltrip Racing driver added, "All my old dirt cars were hand painted. Can't wait for yall to see it." Here's a look at the car Baker drove in 1974 that Bowyer's look is based off of. Entering next weekend's race, Bowyer holds the final spot in the provisional Chase Grid with just two regular-season races left before the 16-driver field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is set. Bowyer has one top-10 finish in nine career starts at the 1.366-mile track in South Carolina.
RELATED: MWR won't field full-time teams in 2016 MORE: Kauffman: 'Made sense to not go forward' The week it was announced Michael Waltrip Racing would not field full-time teams in 2016, Clint Bowyer 's No. 15 and David Ragan 's No. 55 MWR Toyotas were running in the top five with 125 laps to go when they wound up with damage at Bristol. Bowyer had been running as high as second in the Irwin Tools Night Race , needing a win to give him a secure spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . He entered the weekend 16th in Chase Grid standings, 32 points behind Jeff Gordon . The No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson came down on Ragan's No. 55, spinning his car and sending him into the interior wall, also clipping Bowyer and causing minor damage. Only 12 cars were on the lead lap at the time. Ragan took his wounded machine to the garage and finished 40th. Bowyer recovered and finished fifth, just behind Johnson. Bowyer was able to gain ground on Gordon, who finished 20th in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, and Aric Almirola , who sits behind him in the Chase Grid standings. After Bristol, Bowyer is 17 points behind Gordon and 35 poitns ahead of Almirola.
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman gives an update on Michael Waltrip Racing after Rob Kauffman and Clint Bowyer adressed the media at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Clint Bowyer talked to the media at Bristol Motor Speedway following the announcement that Michael Waltrip Racing will part ways with Bowyer at year's end and cease its full-time racing schedule after the 2015 season.
Watch Clint Bowyer ’s car be hand-painted with a throwback paint scheme in preparation for the upcoming race at Darlington Raceway.