It doesn't take much to guess how fun-loving Clint Bowyer reacted to making the Chase.
"Oh, man, it's so much fun to be a part of this." he said Tuesday at Texas Motor Speedway.
But how Michael Waltrip would react was much harder to predict after the car owner spent years trying to field a competitive race organization before breaking through this year with Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr.
Bowyer shook his head as he tried described his boss's reaction when his two drivers both made NASCAR's "playoffs" -- the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
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"It's hard to say what Michael was -- you've met Michael?" said Bowyer, who was in town to help the speedway give out 5,000 tickets to Northwest School District students and promote the AAA Texas 500 on Nov. 1-4, the third-to-last race in the Chase. "He was everything. He was all of the things you just said. He was happy; he was emotional; he was proud. All of the things he should have been. But he enjoyed it.
"This is a guy, he was at the bottom of the barrel, and everybody knows that, and he's not scared to admit it."
Ten years ago, when Waltrip got a race team off the ground, he was barely scraping enough together to get a couple of starts. Jerry Nadeau ran a race for him in 2002, as did Kenny Wallace. Buckshot Jones and Mike Skinner each did the same in 2003.
The next year, the team put four races together, then five each over the next two years before finally, in 2007, Dale Jarrett ran 24 races and David Reutimann 26 for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Reutimann finally got MWR's first win in 2009, but it wasn't until Bowyer arrived this year that the organization claimed two wins in one year -- and put a driver in the Chase.
"I remember back when Michael first came in...Everybody, including me, was, 'Oh, man, he's bitten off way more than he can chew. He's going to be done before he even gets started, before the end of the year,'" Bowyer said. "To be able to weather that storm, survive, keep building, acquire a partner in Rob Kaufmann, our other boss, and keep digging, never give up, has finally got him and his organization where they're wanting to be, a part of the board, a part of the crowd in this sport, to have two cars in the Chase, to have those cars locked into the Chase -- and running good!"
Bowyer became part of the turnaround in his first year at MWR. He joined the team -- a hard decision for him, he said -- after failing to work out a new deal with Richard Childress Racing.
MWR welcomed him, not only because he's a good driver, but because he was bringing a signed-and-delivered sponsor with him -- gold in today's economy in auto racing.
That gave Bowyer sway to pick his own crew chief, Brian Pattie, who put together the rest of the team that has become the flag-bearer for MWR.
"I was in a fortunate situation to take advantage of some unfortunate situations on some other teams' parts," Bowyer said. "There were a lot of teams, RCR, Roush, pulling back to three teams. There were a lot of good people, good personnel, out there, enough to build an all-star cast, and that's what Brian Pattie did, was assemble an all-star cast around me, and I think the results are speaking for themselves."
Bowyer won his second race last week, winning at Richmond, and he's on his way to potentially his best Sprint Cup season.
He won two races two years ago, with seven top-fives and 18 top-10s. With the 10-race playoffs to go, he has two wins, six top-fives and 15 top-10s.
"We're bound to make some mistakes, but I'm telling you, as we go on and I look inside this Chase, I think the mistakes are behind us," Bowyer said. "I think we're learning from them at a rapid pace. I think we're way ahead of schedule from where we should be, realistically.... I'm pretty confident, I guess, with where we're at and moving forward with the Chase and where we can be at the end."
Nobody has to guess the reaction if that happens.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407