Clint Bowyer both achieved a long overdue 'payback' for an early sporting rivalry and repaid Richard Childress' faith in him in clinching the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series crown at Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend.

The Kansas native was picked up by RCR from relative obscurity back in 2005. Now, four years later and courtesy of a fifth place finish in the Ford 300, he has pipped Roush Fenway Racing rival Carl Edwards to the laurels by a scant 21 points. It has, he acknowledged, been quite a journey.

"Man, it's just incredible," he admitted afterwards. "It makes you think back to how it all started, you know, working in a body shop in Kansas and trying to figure out what was the next move. You're out of money, your parents gave up three retirements to get you where you're at and, you know, it was kind of the end of the road.

"Out of nowhere, my cell phone rings and it was Richard. It was just unbelievable to think back how my career started with the race in Nashville, and then winning my first race in the Nationwide Series at Nashville.

"You know, to be able to win our first championship with Dan and all the guys on the BB&T Chevrolet and all our partners, [I'm] very proud to be able to do this for Richard. [It] kind of feels like giving back for taking a chance on me, and finally it paid off.

"It took him a while, took me a while, but I finally had a chance, an opportunity to give back to him and I'm just really proud of everybody at RCR, all the guys on the BB&T, Camping World Chevrolet, everybody - we're strong.

"It's all about having good people, and Richard has surrounded me with good people, with (crew chief) Dan Deeringhoff, with everybody on this car. They're good people, they work hard and they accomplish their goals.

"Hats off to the engine department, whether it be the Nationwide or the Cup programme. They've come so far. Everybody at RCR has worked hard to get us to this point. We're fourth, fifth and sixth on the Cup side; that's pretty consistent, pretty solid, and I think that's overall as an average better than anybody, any organisation. I don't know when is the last time we had a DNF from the guys' hard work.

"It's fun to be able to roll through RCR as a race car driver and know the guys and know that they're pulling for you and are happy that you're racing for them. That's what Richard has formed there - a family atmosphere where a guy can go there and feel like family."

Bowyer also had another reason to celebrate his success, he related, having been 'killed' by Edwards when the pair of them - unbeknown to each other - had competed against one another much earlier on in their respective careers in Missouri. This second encounter, though, the 29-year-old acknowledged, had been considerably more nerve-wracking - especially through the final stint.

"The hardest thing is you knew it was coming," he affirmed. "Every time we get into a deal where we're going to win a race or we have a good car, that always happens. We always have to go through the adversity for some reason - that last scare, before glory, before the end, whether it's good or bad.

"It's never easy, it seems, for us in the Nationwide car, but you know, that's what championships are made out of. I had a 56-point lead and still had trouble with it! The whole race I was three-wide, behind, knew I had to catch up.

"If you look at the race tonight, hell, I was nervous. I was like, 'we're not that good, how am I going to get up there?' We work together, we work hard, and Dan makes good decisions, and by the end of the night we're where we need to be. I think that we complement each other well, and I appreciate all of his hard work.

"Carl has been doing a good job of putting the heat on. You knew he was going to. You knew he was going for it in Carl Edwards' style, but you knew that you had to stick to your guns, stick to the basics, stick to what got us to this point. That's consistency, racing smart - and that paid off.

"It's paid off in every championship I've ever won. It's consistency, it isn't the races won. I mean, absolutely we wanted to win more races, but you'll give up a battle or two to win the war, and I feel like we earned the war. You go out there and do the best you can and race as hard as you can, and if that's not good enough, that's not good enough. You know, that's what got us to this point. We made some mistakes, but they made more mistakes.

"It was funny, I saw him (Edwards) on the steps leaving here, and he shared a story which we both thought was funny. We raced at the same race in Moberly, Missouri. It was my first asphalt race, I went over there with a guy named Scott Traylor who let me have an opportunity. He had an awesome car - I mean, this thing was beautiful, top-notch.

"Show up, and here comes this ragged-out, turd of a race car that was way louder than everything else and for whatever reason had different tyres than everybody else, and he killed us that day. And I'm like, who in the hell is that guy? It was Carl Edwards.

"So we had that moment down there, and I told him, 'That's payback for Moberly'. That was our first race together. We race a lot. He did a better job of wrecking my cars this year than I did, but we had a lot of fun and still, it comes down to enjoying each other, and Carl is a hell of a race car driver. There's no way of getting around it.

"You know, I'm damn proud to be able to beat a race car driver like that and a team and an organisation like he's got behind him. It says a lot about ours' and the people that surround me.

"Carl has been a long-time friend from those days, and I think it's a true testament to the stepping stones of NASCAR. We both came from the weekly racing series, went through the regional touring series and he went to the Truck series. Luckily I got the right 'phone call and went to the Nationwide series. It's fun to be able to come back here what, five, six years later and be able to race each other for championships. It really is fun."

As to what the future holds for Clint Bowyer, the former motocross racer was adamant that even if he had now achieved title glory, he will certainly be coming back for more.

"This has been a long time coming," he underlined. "We worked well together last year, had an incredible, consistent year, and it showed me that that's what it took to win a championship this year, and indeed that's what it was.

"I love this series. I love what Nationwide has done for this series. I appreciate them coming in and stepping up to the plate. They really did. I mean, times are tough, and this series is on top, and it's a lot of fun to be able to participate in this series. I want to be a part of it as long as I can."



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