Clint Bowyer didn’t mince words.
“There’s no reason to sugar-coat it — we sucked,” Bowyer said Tuesday with the no-nonsense frankness that has endeared him to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series fans.
True enough, Michael Waltrip Racing’s performance as an organization was substandard in 2014. MWR failed to win a race last year and didn’t put a driver into the expanded field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Bowyer hasn’t won a Cup event since the Chase race at Charlotte in 2012, and the absence from Victory Lane has exacted an emotional toll on the ebullient driver.
“It was hard,” Bowyer told the NASCAR Wire Service at the Charlotte Convention Center during MWR’s appearance at the Charlotte Motor Speedway NASCAR Media Tour. “The worst thing I could ever be scared of is just to become irrelevant, and I was rapidly approaching that.
“I haven’t won in two years, and this is a big year for me. I need to prove myself, and I need to prove our race team. We’ve got to get back to those winning ways and running up front.”
The subpar performance of the No. 15 Toyota wasn’t for lack of trying. Bowyer felt he and crew chief Brian Pattie got everything they could have out of the equipment they had.
“This organization can do it,” Bowyer said. “We’ve proved that. We’ve had some setbacks... My team, my direct team, I really believe all year long last year, they got the most out of what they had. All year long last year, out of that car that unloaded out of the box, they did a great job of getting the most speed out of that race car they possibly could.
“At the end of the day, it just wasn’t a good enough product coming out of the box.”
Late last season, MWR began to address the issues, and the process continued after the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Team owner Michael Waltrip says there is now a palpable difference in the atmosphere at the race shop.
“Scott Miller, our competition director, just looked internally at a couple of his departments and had to figure out a way to make them more interactive with the other parts of the building, the other pieces of the process,” Waltrip said. “So we made some changes internally with a couple of people, and we immediately felt the results of those moves.
“It just feels different. It truly does. People are more energetic. There’s more meetings between the fabricators and the engineers, the crew chiefs. Everybody’s working really hard and close together. We just are starting to set up our first 2015 cars, and we’ve got a really good feeling of where they’re at, aerodynamically and structurally.”