Top 10 NASCAR Driver of the Year 2012: 3. Clint Bowyer

Birthdate: May 30, 1979 Hometown: Emporia, KS Team: Michael Waltrip Racing Crew chief: Brian Pattie 2012 starts: 36 Poles: 0 Wins: 3 Top 5: 10 Top 10: 23 Annual earnings: $5,546,080 Championship points: 2361 Championship position: 2nd NASCAR Driver of 2011 position: 16th

Things didn't look good for Clint Bowyer at the end of 2011: he'd just missed out on making the Chase, and more seriously he'd fallen out with long time boss Richard Childress which left him casting around for any port in a storm. When he finally took up an offer to join Michael Waltrip Racing, most pundits figured this was a major step down the pecking order for Bowyer.

How wrong we all were: Bowyer's been reborn in 2012, winning three races and pushing hard for the Sprint Cup title all the way to the finish. He might even have been involved in a shoot-out for the title itself at Homestead-Miami, if not for getting wrecked by Jeff Gordon in the previous race at Phoenix in an act of retaliation by Gordon on Bowyer for previous perceived wrongs.

Actually Bowyer was never really in with much of a chance for the title itself and second place was the best he could realistically hope for - and which he ultimately got, after a technical failure for Jimmie Johnson struck early in the season finale. But voters have decided that actually third place is what he deserved after all - and we're not going to argue with your wise decision.

Top 10 NASCAR Driver of the Year 2012 results so far: 3. Clint Bowyer 4. Kasey Kahne 5. Mark Martin 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 7. Marcos Ambrose 8. Martin Truex Jr. 9. Jeff Gordon 10. Greg Biffle