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Bowyer enjoying strong start

Clint Bowyer needed convincing.

So did the pundits who didn't think he could switch cars, crews and crew chiefs without a significant fall-off in performance on the track.

Bowyer qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in 2007 and 2008, finishing third and fifth, respectively, in the final standings. When team owner Richard Childress signed Casey Mears to drive a fourth RCR car, however, he opted to put Mears in the Bowyer's #07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet with Gil Martin as his crew chief.

That left Bowyer to drive the #33 Chevy with first-year Cup crew chief Shane Wilson captaining a new pit crew. Conventional wisdom said that breaking up the successful Bowyer-Martin combination would work to Bowyer's detriment.

To say that Bowyer is proving that notion wrong is a colossal understatement. Through four races this season, he's second to Jeff Gordon in the championship standings on the strength of a fourth-place finish at Daytona, a second at Las Vegas and a sixth at Atlanta.

Don't believe, though, that Bowyer didn't have his share of nagging doubts before the season began.

"When your boss says this is what you're going to do, it's pretty much what you're going to do," Bowyer said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway before practice for Sunday's Food City 500. "It definitely was nerve-wracking. You just don't ever know. You always know what you've got in the bank with what you had.

"It's hard to let that go, but maybe it was time for a change, and it's really opened my eyes in the beginning part of this season with a completely new team. New optimism, new everything, it's already opened my eyes to what can become of this. We haven't even hit our stride yet, and we've already had three good finishes out of four. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season seeing what this team is made out of."

RCR teammate Jeff Burton thinks predictions that Bowyer would miss the Chase this year fuelled his determination.

"Obviously, Clint is extremely talented, and they've come out of the gate with a point to prove," Burton said. "I think a lot of people thought they were going to be in trouble and weren't going to be able to be successful. I think that motivated them some.

"Shane's done a really nice job of understanding these cars pretty quickly, which is a difficult thing to do. These cars will push you and challenge you. Sometimes a fresh approach is a good idea, too. It's been good for Shane, because he's been able to pick the good and the bad out of each of the other teams. If you watch them during the weekend, they get steadily better all during the weekend, and that's the sign of a good race team."

Bowyer's fast start has gone a long way toward silencing the doubters. The way Bowyer sees it, that's not necessarily a good thing, given his ability to use others' negativity as a motivator.

"It seems like over the past few years that I've been the one that they said couldn't make the Chase and won't make the Chase - and it was again this year," Bowyer said. "That's fuel for the fire, absolutely.

"That makes you go out and work harder and go that extra mile to make sure that you prove them wrong. I love it - please keep doing it."

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News


Related Pictures

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Clint Bowyer at Daytona [Pic credit: Getty for NASCAR]
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet SS, with team owner and grandfather Richard Childress after capturing the pole position Friday, March 18, 2016 for a front row start in Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Dillon will be joined on the front row with Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS who qualified second. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch/Jimmy John`s Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet SS race Sunday, February 21, 2016 during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Harvick finished 4th and Dillon finished 9th. (Photo by Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing)
Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Chevrolet, races Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Fastenal Ford, during practice for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Brian Scott, driver of the #44 Albertsons Co./Shore Lodge Ford, talks to team owner Richard Petty in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 DOW Chevrolet, Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Chevrolet, Brian Vickers, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet, and Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 Nature`s Bakery Chevrolet, practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Clint Bowyer speaks with the media as Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, looks on during a press conference announcing the retirement of Stewart on September 30, 2015 in Kannapolis, North Carolina. Stewart has decided his 18th year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be his last. The three-time series champion will retire following the 2016 season, whereupon Clint Bowyer will take the wheel of the No. 14 machine beginning in 2017. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Stewart-Haas Racing via Getty Images)
Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Toyota, prepares to drive during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series myAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 18, 2015 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 12, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 12, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
(Back row L-R) Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 ARRIS Toyota, Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Libman/Menards Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 3M Chevrolet, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, (front row L-R) Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Cessna Chevrolet, Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy/American Heritage Chocolate Toyota, Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, pose for a photo after making the Chase for the Sprint Cup. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 Buddy Baker Tribute Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 6, 2015 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Pro Services Chevrolet, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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