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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Is Clint Bowyer a legitimate championship contender? Yes ... and no

Let me start by saying that I like Clint Bowyer. He’s got a good attitude, doesn’t take himself too seriously, and is a truly talented racecar driver -- you don’t win races as often as he does without that being true.

After his most recent win, many are saying he is now emerging as a legitimate contender to win the Cup this year. He’s trailing only Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin in that battle, so indeed he is mathematically a solid contender for the championship.

Michael Waltrip Racing has come a long way this year, running up front on the regular. Bowyer was a great pickup by the team, and has led the charge for them. The team deserves a lot of kudos for their great season, which may be just the beginning of a great future -- something I never imagined I’d be saying about the team when Waltrip started it years ago.

But ultimately, I do not see Bowyer spoiling the party and taking home the Cup.

He’ll do well the rest of the way, no doubt. But he’s not yet at the caliber of the drivers about him in terms of overall performance.
Bowyer has off weeks; This Chase, so far, Keselowski, Jimmie and Denny do not.

Unless those top three suddenly develop a habit of not running up front and getting top-5 finishes all the time, I don’t see how the math will add up to Bowyer taking the crown.

I’d love to see it, because it would be a great underdog story -- and a lot of fans will be rooting him on to do so. The bar has been raised, though, and you have to be damn near perfect to be a champion these days. And I don’t see the 15 car being damn near perfect the rest of the way.

I predict a great battle down to the wire at Homestead -- between the top three contenders; and Clint hovering nearby and maintaining his fourth-place position. That would be a great run for this team, and a setup for a step forward in 2013, and no reason for Bowyer to hang his head.

Of course, there is a chance lightning will strike and Bowyer will rise to the top.

But I wouldn’t bet on it.


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