When the dust finally settles, Clint Bowyer could be crowned 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Although 36 points out of the standings lead with two races remaining, Bowyer – with some help – could rally for what’s become an improbable title.
Realistically, the Kansan probably will settle for a career-best season in terms of wins (three) and top-five (nine) and top-10 (22) finishes. If Bowyer retains his current third position in the standings, he’ll match his 2007 points effort.
To say Bowyer has come out of nowhere is an understatement. With a first-year team, he ignited Michael Waltrip Racing’s first journey to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™. There’s no doubt that MWR, Bowyer and the No. 15 Toyota team’s crew chief Brian Pattie will be a stronger presence in 2013.
“I’ve said this all along: It’s fun to be racing for the championship but I’m more proud of where we’re at contending for that championship,” Bowyer said. “We just keep polishing the edges and keep getting better fixing our program week-in and week-out. We’ll [eventually] be there.”
Bowyer probably will be among the final three competitors standing after Sunday’s AdvoCare 500. Keselowski and Bowyer are Johnson’s only rivals currently within a 49-point championship window – outside of which means title elimination after Phoenix.
Three former NASCAR Sprint Cup champions likely must wait for next year to hoist another Sprint Cup. Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon are fifth and sixth, 72 points behind Johnson. Reigning champion Tony Stewart is eighth, 80 points back.
Two Chase qualifiers were eliminated in Texas – Kevin Harvick, 11th, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose two-race hiatus due to injury likely will relegate him to 12th in final points.