Clint Bowyer announced on Friday that his move from Richard Childress Racing to Michael Waltrip Racing was official, and that he would be joining MWR from the start of the 2012 season in a three-year deal.

Bowyer wil be driving the MWR #15 Toyota-powered car, after energy drink brand 5-Hour Energy signed on to back him as the primary sponsor for 24 of the 36 Cup races.

"This has been a very long summer, but I think for everyone involved, the best decision was made to be at Michael Waltrip Racing," said Bowyer. "I am a big fan of 5-hour Emergy so I was really happy when they approached me about putting a deal together. We were diligent in working through our options and finally found the right fit."

32-year-old Bowyer has been with RCR since he began his Cup career six years ago, and has collected four wins, two poles, 30 top-fives and 90 top-tens, and he admits that leaving the organisation will be a big wrench.

"I've been with one organization for my entire Sprint Cup career and leaving there was the hardest part of the decision," he said, adding that "it became clear that MWR provided us the best opportunity to win races ... Now I'm ready to start the next chapter in my racing career."

"This is a watershed moment for our young organization," said MWR co-owner Michael Waltrip. "Clint is a proven winner and consistent Chase participant. He had a lot of options and it makes me proud that Clint and 5-hour Energy chose to race with us ... We looked forward to this announcement becoming public knowledge, so that we could begin the pursuit to put some more folks on the car with Clint."

MWR has never had a driver qualify for the post-season championship Chase shoot-out. Bowyer himself missed out on a spot in the Chase this year, which may have contributed to an unbridgeable difference in contract negotiating positons between Bowyer and his current team boss Richard Childress, that persisted even when Bowyer brought in 5-Hour Energy as an additional prospective sponsor for RCR to bankroll the ongoing partnership.

"We went and talked to them about the 5-Hour deal and they still couldn't put a deal together, so I said, 'Well, all right, we'll go somewhere else,'" explained Bowyer, who agreed that he was nonetheless taking a cut in salary through this deal.

Bowyer will now be expected to take a leading role in developing and growing MWR to the next level, as he himself acknowledged at the official announcement. "I feel like this is an opportunity for a young company like MWR to catch up to some of these bigger companies that are more established," he said.

MWR will be adding a new car to their line-up for Bowyer, which already currently features Martin Truex Jr. and David Reutimann. MWR will also need a crew chief for Bowyer, with the driver himself identifying Earnhardt Ganassi Racing's Brian Pattie as high on the list. MWR recently poached former RCR director of competition Scott Miller to be their new executive vice president for competition.

RCR is likely to drop down to a three-car operation in 2012 in the wake of the news, but has clear plans to develop Childress' grandsons Austin and Ty Dillon to the Cup line-up in future years. Austin Dillon makes his Sprint Cup debut at Kansas Speedway this weekend.

In deciding on the #15 for his 2012 Cup car, Bowyer is selecting a car number that saw Dale Earnhardt to Cup wins - and also Michael Waltrip himself, who twice won the Daytona 500 under that banner.

"It was obviously good to Michael," said Bowyer of the number 15. "I'm big on Daytona - that's one of my favorite racetracks - and that number was pretty good to him there."

There's another bit of history in the background of this deal - the moment in 2008 when Bowyer labelled his new car owner "the worst driver in NASCAR" at Bristol. "Did you say that I was the worst ever driver--ever--or just during that era?" joked Waltrip at the announcement.

"You never know when you're going to have to eat those words, and it looks like today's the day," responded Bowyer. "But he promised me he'd be the best owner ever."