Pair start building relationship, talk upcoming races after crew chief swap DARLINGTON, S.C. – Crew chief Billy Scott and driver Clint Bowyer wasted no time in starting to build their relationship as teammates, hitting Darlington Raceway for testing the same day Michael Waltrip Racing officials announced a crew chief swap for its’ two-team NASCAR Sprint Cup Series operation. Bowyer ’s No. 15 team was one of four taking part in Tuesday’s Goodyear tire test at the historic 1.366-mile venue and was one of 12 participating in Wednesday’s open team test. Scott, previously the crew chief for the organization’s No. 55 Toyota, is now overseeing the Bowyer entry; Brian Pattie, who had served as Bowyer ’s crew chief, is now with the No. 55 group and driver. The pit crews for the two teams remain unchanged, although Scott said there were some individuals in other positions that made the switch as well. Wednesday’s open team test provided teams the opportunity to prepare for the Bojangles’ Southern 500, scheduled for Sept. 6. “There are different aspects that have been kind of building up to it,” Scott said of the crew chief change. “The timing, even though it’s been short notice, coming to the test here with cars that were prepared differently (and) going to Michigan before the off week is short planning, but I think the timing is good that we do have the test here for the 15 and next week for the 55 (at Richmond) to give everybody a chance to work together. “The off week (which follows this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway ) will be a good chance to review that and make some tweaks.” Bowyer will be the fifth driver with whom Scott has worked this season as team co-owner Michael Waltrip , Brian Vickers , Brett Moffitt and David Ragan have spent time behind the wheel of the No. 55 entry. Vickers, the team’s primary driver, was sidelined after just two starts due to a recurrence of blood clots while Ragan has been in the car for the five Sprint Cup Series events. Bowyer and Pattie have worked side-by-side since 2012 at MWR, winning three times and qualifying for NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2012-13. Currently 17 th in the points standings, Bowyer ’s managed just three top 10s this season and has led only two laps. “Hopefully having that experience (with different drivers), learning somebody new and adapting on the fly will help us,” said Scott, who added that building a relationship with Bowyer will be no different than building one with any of his former drivers. “That’s always evolving even for guys that have been together for years; you can always improve on that,” he said. “But … we’ve been in meetings together for three-and-a-half years already and he’s a pretty easy-going guy so hopefully we should pick up pretty quick.” It won’t be necessarily a change in the direction of the team, but just a different approach perhaps. “The communication at … Michael Waltrip Racing has always been very fluent among all the teams whether it’s been two or three,” said Scott. “Everyone’s worked on the same goals … I think maybe just having a different perspective and just some small details might be enough to just switch it up, get that little spark.” Bowyer , taking a lunch time break from testing, said MWR has “to make our cars better … to give (Billy) a chance. “Communication can always be better and that’s what we’re working on with this change,” he said. “Something’s needed. It’s not like he is coming in, having to learn everything. We’re only a two-car team so they worked pretty tight anyway. My engineer, Dax (Gerringer) is a guy that I’ve work with really closely with since I’ve been at MWR. I’m just looking forward to gaining a new asset, a new voice. We’ve certainly got a lot of work to do.” Other drivers taking part in Wednesday’s test: Aric Almirola ( Richard Petty Motorsports ), Greg Biffle ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Kurt Busch ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Kyle Busch ( Joe Gibbs Racing ), Jimmie Johnson ( Hendrick Motorsports ), Joey Logano ( Team Penske ), Jamie McMurray ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates), Ryan Newman ( Richard Childress Racing ), Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ), Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing ) and Jeb Burton ( BK Racing ). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Bruce: Challenges run deep for two-car organization After 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, Clint Bowyer finds himself 17th in the points standings, a position that's better than a lot of folks in the garage today. By picking up one or more spots between now and the fall race at Richmond, Bowyer would likely find himself in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Of course, a win would all but seal the deal as well. But there's a long stretch of lonesome asphalt between the Michael Waltrip Racing driver's current residence and Victory Lane these days. Competitive isn't a term that's been over-used this season at MWR when it comes to the organization's two Sprint Cup Series teams. Bowyer has managed only three top-10 finishes, no top-fives, and has led just two laps in 2015. The No. 15 team has been MWR's best this season, and that tells you all you need to know about the current status of the Cornelius, North Carolina-based group, co-owned by Michael Waltrip and Rob Kaufmann. The group's second entry, the No. 55, has been fighting to find its footing since the beginning of the season, with no apparent success. Primary driver Brian Vickers has been sidelined by yet another bout of blood clots -- his return isn't expected this season -- and the team's roster has featured three different drivers in his absence. David Ragan , the former Front Row Motorsports driver who took a short stint driving in relief of the injured Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing , is the most recent to settle into the seat, and only time will tell if stability provides any benefits. On Tuesday, MWR announced a crew chief swap between its two teams, moving Billy Scott from the No. 55 to the 15 and Brian Pattie from the 15 to the 55. Pattie's been to Victory Lane -- once with former Sprint Cup driver Juan Pablo Montoya and three times with Bowyer . Scott, the former lead engineer for the No. 55, was handed the reins of that team after the conclusion of the 2013 season. It's a different approach, if not exactly a new one. Crew chief changes are one of the first lines of defense a team tries when results fail to meet expectations. Team chemistry is one of the few things that can't be measured on a set-up plate or with a template. No one knew that pairing crew chief Cole Pearn with driver Martin Truex Jr . this year at Furniture Row Racing would produce substantial results. Yet Truex just ended a 69-race winless streak, sits second in the points standings and has led the most laps in the past four Sprint Cup Series races. But while Pearn has proven to be a big plus for Furniture Row, his addition isn't the only reason behind the turnaround. The team is also putting fast race cars on the track each week. Competitive cars. MWR currently is not. Given that some drivers have been unable to find their comfort zone with the new rules package for 2015, perhaps that's worth consideration as well. But no one, save for the unheralded Brett Moffitt , has managed to crack the top 10 in the team's No. 55, suggesting that the problem goes deeper than the drivers' ability to adapt to the new less-horsepower, lower downforce platform. "We've got to make our cars better," Bowyer said during a break in Wednesday's open test at Darlington Raceway . It's a refrain the 36-year-old has made on more than one occasion this year. Asked who was ultimately responsible for such matters, Bowyer took a side street if not the high road, choosing instead to confirm how much he's looking forward to working with Scott. "Yeah, but we did change crew chiefs. … Billy’s a quiet guy but he's a fun person. He's a very, very smart person, very capable of doing this job," Bowyer said. Changing crew chiefs might solve some of the MWR's ills. It remains to be seen whether it will cure the disease. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Bowyer's wife, Lorra, expecting couple's first child Clint Bowyer's "baby watch" continues. As a result of that, his team has made appropriate accommodations for this week's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway (Sept. 28, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN). Jeff Burton will be on standby for the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing team. Burton has 40 career starts at Dover, 15 of which ended with top-10s. He also won once at the 1-mile concrete oval, in 2006. If called upon, it would be the third time since August Burton has served as a fill-in. He made two starts for Tony Stewart , in consecutive weeks at Michigan and Bristol, before Stewart returned to his seat in Atlanta. Burton has also made two starts in the No. 66 Toyota this year, at Las Vegas and New Hampshire. Bowyer is 19th in the standings after not qualifying for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. His wife Lorra is due to deliver their first child, a boy -- which Bowyer had previously announced in a very Bowyer -esque manner. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Michael Waltrip Racing driver is on baby watch at Loudon MORE: Bowyers to welcome son: 'It's got a dingy' RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Clint Bowyer is on baby watch as his wife Lorra is expecting the couple's first child. Bowyer is at New Hampshire for this weekend's Sprint Cup Series race, the Sylvania 300 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN) and was pra cticing in the his No. 15 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing in Friday's opening practice. Defending Camping World Truck Series champion and current series points leader Matt Crafton is on standby for Bowyer . @MRNRadio @ClintBowyer @dustinlong Crafton is technically on standby in case needed — K.C. (@KristineC15) September 19, 2014 Bowyer has a favorable history at the Magic Mile. He has two of his eight Sprint Cup wins at the track. It's a duty familiar to Crafton, as he was held on standby for Paul Menard as he and his wife were expecting the birth of a child at Las Vegas earlier this year. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Clint Bowyer talks about working with new crew chief Billy Scott during practice for the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on SIRIUS XM.
Driver has plummeted in standings since runner-up 2012 finish Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Moment From the time Clint Bowyer announced, "It's got a dingy!", we knew this wasn't going to be the garden variety fatherhood. So when Bowyer was asked recently whether fatherhood had knocked him out of his normal offseason routine, we should have expected a quintessentially Clint answer. "It's not been normal," Bowyer said with a laugh. "He (expletive) his pants the other night and it was the most not normal thing I've ever seen in my life. I was gagging. (Lorra's) laughing at me. I'm like, 'You got to get in here, it's horrible!' And he's just sitting there laughing." It was a light moment between Clint and his wife, Lorra, and their now 4-month-old son Cash. And it was just the type of funny story that team co-owner Michael Waltrip hopes we'll hear more of this season from the guy who is just as fast with a quip as he is driving a race car. That's because last season was rough for Bowyer , and some of the fun disappeared. His 19th-place finish in the final standings driving the No. 15 Toyota for MWR was his worst showing in nine full-time Cup seasons. It was a far cry from when he finished second to Brad Keselowski in 2012. "We knew we were in trouble," Bowyer said of last season. "I was just barely getting by to get into the Chase -- and was going to make it -- but a part failure at Atlanta threw us out. That's not any way or shape that we wanted to be in going into a Chase. I wanted to be able to contend for a championship, and I knew if we made it in, we wouldn't go very far." Failing to make the Chase was a wake-up call for a driver who had finished in the top 10 in the final standings on five different occasions. It also gave Bowyer the opportunity to be, as he said, put out of his misery so he could focus on getting ready for 2015. A big part of what has helped him focus on the 2015 season has been becoming a father. "(Fatherhood) slows you down, there's no question it slows you down," Bowyer said. "Your focus is all on simple things. Your life isn't as complex as it once was. You don't have time to pick your head up and take in all the rest of it. You stay focused on your family and your child and racing. It really does simplify your life quite a bit because you're not drawn to so many distractions." Perhaps that type of focus is what helped Kevin Harvick during his championship season. There was a memorable photo of Harvick sitting next to son Keelan on the track after winning at Homestead with their backs against the wall and each giving a thumbs-up sign. Going back to 2013, it was Matt Crafton who won the first of back-to-back NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championships in the year his first child was born. So maybe there is a slight correlation between becoming a parent and being able to perform better at a job, instead of the opposite, which is what some might expect. Count Waltrip as a firm believer in it. "It certainly did that for me when I had my daughter," Waltrip said about gaining a renewed sense of focus. "My opinion is you become more of a complete person so you're more comfortable with who you are. You see your kid and you see that race car, and you're like, 'I'm going to race the heck out of that car and then I'm going to come back and hang out with my little son.' " Like Waltrip said, MWR will need Bowyer to be focused for the 2015 season. Waltrip said there was still some ad inventory to be sold on Bowyer's car, and there's the usual pressure of needing to perform well in order to satisfy current or potential clients. Bowyer knows it's important to make last season seem like a blip on the radar instead of the norm. "It's crucial for me, for 5-hour Energy, for all our partners, for everyone involved at MWR, that this is a rebound year and we get back to our winning ways and where we once were," Bowyer said. "It is very, very crucial that that happens." With all that pressure, though, the hope is that little Cash will bring Clint back to center. So far, so good. "He seems more fun and I know that's crazy because he's always been that guy," Waltrip said of Bowyer . "But you can just see it in his eyes. He's a happy man. That's why I'm so thankful that his energy for the team and where we're at as an organization is where he is mentally. Because we need that fun Clint guy, and we got him, and I think his son is a big part of that." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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