Extra MustardSI On CampusFantasyPhoto GalleriesSwimsuitVideoFanNationSI KidsTNT
  Clint Bowyer
Car number: 07 • Manufacturer: Chevy • Sponsor: Jack Daniel's
Owner: Richard Childress • Team: Richard Childress Racing • Crew Chief: Gil Martin

Chris Graythen/Getty Images
2006 Season
Final Points Standing17th
After First 26 Races16th
Top 54
Laps Led112
Lead Lap Finishes19
Bonus Points40
Races Led8
2007 Spin
Richard Childress Racing experienced a renaissance in 2006. Not only did the organization qualify two drivers for the Chase, but it also proved there was more where that came from in the form of Clint Bowyer.

The Kansas native proved to be a worthy competitor in NASCAR's premier division with four top-5 and 11 top-10 runs to his credit. More important, his smooth driving style and patience earned him the respect of his fellow drivers.

The chemistry between Bowyer and crew chief Gil Martin seemed to take hold as well. Martin and Bowyer teamed up in 2005, nearly winning the Busch Series title before making the jump up to Cup. With a full season under their belts in the big leagues, the duo should continue its solid partnership, perhaps parlaying it into a win.

Bowyer ran well at most any type of venue last season, save the short tracks. Especially encouraging were his 14th- and 16th-place runs on the road courses. Most rookies find themselves in way over their heads at Infineon and Watkins Glen. Still, we don't see a win in his future on the road; that is more likely to come on an intermediate or flat track.

The Jack Daniel's team appears to be returning all key personnel, which is a plus for any outfit. This factor is a key component in helping Bowyer build upon the success of last season. By year's end this is a team that could be battling for a Chase spot.

Like Denny Hamlin, what this team needs to beware of most is the dreaded sophomore slump. While the overall strength of the organization may prevent that from happening, it inexplicably seems to strike even the most promising young drivers. And with the Car of Tomorrow on its way, a slump is the last curveball a second-year team needs thrown its way.

2006 Recap
Clint Bowyer's rookie campaign on the Nextel Cup circuit went about as well as expected. He was hot out of the box, with three consecutive top 15s, and remained in the top 12 in points after the season's eighth race. Inconsistency crept in around the quarter pole, and Bowyer was never quite able to make up enough ground to get into contention for a shot at the Chase.

Had it not been for a phenomenal rookie campaign by Denny Hamlin, Bowyer would have won the Raybestos Rookie of the Year award. He finished 59 points behind Hamlin on the strength of 19 lead-lap finishes.

Another plus was that Bowyer, for a rookie, did not trash too many cars and sat on the point for 112 laps throughout the season. A fourth at the Brickyard and a third at California were the highlights for a team that gained strength down the stretch, recording eight top 10 runs in the season's final 20 events.

The Good: Leading 43 laps en route to a ninth-place run in front of the hometown folks at Kansas was the feel-good race of the year for Clint Bowyer.

The Bad: Back-to-back 30-somethings at Michigan and Bristol just past the season's halfway point left some wondering whether the Jack Daniel's team had hit the wall.

The Ugly: Talladega. Both times. Bowyer got caught up in both Big Ones at the 2.66-mile behemoth. Of his four DNFs, half came in Alabama.

More Drivers | Track Profiles

• To purchase the 2007 Racing Preview
from Athlon Sports, click here