ORLANDO, Fla. — Life is good if you are Clint Bowyer.
Soon to be father? Check.
Contract extension? Check.
“It’s been a hell of a week. We’ve had a lot of fun,” Bowyer said last week in Kansas, where he was returning to his racing roots.
Bowyer’s multi-year extension with Michael Waltrip Racing includes continued primary sponsorship from 5-hour Energy for 24 of the 36 races each season, with additional sponsors including Peak and AAA Mid-Atlantic.
The extension validates what has become a redemption ride for Bowyer following the late-race shenanigans in Richmond last year that sullied not only his reputation but the entire MWR family.
His bogus “itch” caused a late caution, all designed to game the system and allow then-teammate Martin Truex Jr. to qualify for the Chase. It all went horribly wrong within the span of a few minutes.
“Fan base, Twitter and things like that, I took a beating for a while,” Bowyer said recently. “But we weathered that storm. That’s behind us. It’s a lot of fun to interact with the fans, whether it’s good or bad. It’s all positive interactions as far as I’m concerned (because) they’re talking about our sport.”
Bowyer has many different things to chirp about this season, including his marriage to Lorra Podsiadlo in the Bahamas over Easter break, the baby and whether there will be another Clint in the family.
“No. No Juniors,” said Bowyer, currently 20th in the points standings with three top-10 finishes after getting 10 top-5s last year. “Can’t have Juniors. I’m really looking forward to it. That’s the question, I know. Everybody you talk to, ‘What are you going to name him?’ I’m scrambling right now. Really, really excited about our boy. Casey (Bowyer, Clint’s brother) brought in nieces and nephews to our family a few years ago. And ever since then Lorra and I are like, ‘We got to have one soon.’ “
Bowyer’s extension now opens up speculation about two of NASCAR’s other marquee drivers who may be looking for a new ride next season — Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards.
Both are Ford guys under Jack Roush, but it’s doubtful both will be back.
Edwards has been particularly coy. There are rumblings that he will end his 12-year run with Roush and join Joe Gibbs Racing as its fourth driver.
Roush wants him back but Edwards — who acts as his own agent — is noncommittal. The same movie played out in 2011 when Edwards played poker face before signing a three-year extension.
“You guys know that I don’t like to talk about that stuff in the media,” Edwards said at Kansas last weekend. “To me, that is business and I have made the mistake of letting that turn into a big media thing before, so I would rather not talk about that and keep that between me and Jack and (team president) Steve Newmark.”
Things are much more encouraging with Biffle, who has been with Roush for 12 years, a run that includes winning 19 races and notching 85 top-5 finishes.
“I have a feeling it’s getting closer,” Biffle said last month. “I know there’s been a lot of activity.
“It’s a good program for (sponsor) 3M. I think they’re happy. Hopefully, here soon, we’ll have something.”
Danica making progress
Danica Patrick. Let’s discuss.
The polarizing Queen of NASCAR is back in the news again, and that’s a good thing.
She finished seventh at Kansas last weekend, a week after she became the first woman to lead laps at Talladega.
Danica is constantly on the clock when it comes to her NASCAR career. Team co-owner Tony Stewart says Danica must show improvement from her rookie season, which started out magnificently with the pole position for the Daytona 500 and then quickly spiraled downward.
No one expects her to make the Chase in 2014.
They do expect her to be more competitive. Even with her nice finish last weekend, she is still in 27th place in the Cup standings.
“I know that we haven’t had the best of times but it’s days like today that we work hard for,” Patrick said at Kansas. “And it’s days like today when we do this enough, this is the kind of stuff that materializes into wins.
“So we’ve just got to keep hanging around and doing what we’re doing, and I’m just proud of everyone for working really hard and believing in me.”
There are Internet trolls who will never let go of the fact that Danica has struggled. There are those who will continue to support her no matter what. They are among the fans who have her among the top vote-getters in the early going for the Sprint All-Star Race coming up at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
I suspect NASCAR is in that second group of supporters. NASCAR needs her to thrive to add another marquee star to a sport that needs a bigger buzz to reach out to mainstream fans.
Danica is the ticket.
Finishing seventh in a race is a start, but she remains far away from the finish line.
The NASCAR family is extending condolences to the Richard Petty family in a time of solemn remembrance.
Patricia Petty, the wife of NASCAR Hall of Fame engine builder/crew chief Maurice Petty and the sister-in-law of seven-time Cup champion Petty, died last Sunday.
“We all love Patricia,” Richard Petty said in a statement. “She was another cornerstone in the Petty family and was always there for Maurice and allowed us to do what we loved to do. She was just another special part of the family. We’ll miss her and give our love and support to Maurice and his family at this time.”
Her death was confirmed on the 14th anniversary of the death of Adam Petty, the first fourth-generation driver in NASCAR history who was a rising star on the NASCAR circuit before he died at New Hampshire International Speedway while practicing for a race on May 12.
Adam’s car crashed head-on into a wall while traveling at about 130 mph. He was airlifted to Concord Hospital, where he was pronounced dead from trauma to the head.