Clint Bowyer backing into a corner?

August, 31, 2011

A word of advice for Clint Bowyer: Don't procrastinate in contract negotiations with your current team when the boss' grandson is waiting in the wings.

Hey, it could happen.

Richard Childress' passion these days -- outside of getting back at Kyle Busch -- is getting his grandsons, Austin and Ty Dillon, to the Sprint Cup level. Austin is first in line, ranked fourth in the Truck series standings and poised to move full time to the Nationwide Series in 2012.

Austin Dillon already has competed in four Nationwide races this year and collected three top-10s with no finish worse than 14th. Fast-forwarding him into a handful of Sprint Cup races with another driver -- say, a Mark Martin -- handling the rest of the season for RCR's fourth car wouldn't be a bad option.

Martin needs a part-time ride for 2012, and if there isn't sponsorship to help him split the Cup season with Danica Patrick at Stewart-Haas Racing, this would be a good option.

Bowyer seemingly is feeling the pressure judging by his comments before Saturday night's race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He has to see the leverage he might have had two months ago when he was inside the top 10 is gone now. Only the top 10 drivers are guaranteed a spot in the Chase. Bowyer is 12th, but he is behind in the wild-card battle because he hasn't won.

Not that Bowyer doesn't have other options, but would any other team give him a better chance to compete for the title than RCR? Doubtful.

Here's what we know:

• Bowyer wants to stay at Richard Childress Racing, where he has driven all 205 of his Cup races since entering the series in 2005. How do we know that? He says he does.

• Bowyer has talked to almost every team in the garage and has had several offers, including Red Bull Racing before that company announced it was leaving the sport in 2012, Richard Petty Motorsports with a current offer and, of course, RCR. Joe Gibbs Racing also is interested, but only if sponsorship can be found.

• Money and sponsorship are factors. If they weren't, Bowyer would have re-signed with RCR more than a month ago when Childress said he hoped to have a deal done in two weeks.

Here's what we don't know:

• Can RPM or anybody else really offer Bowyer more money than RCR? And if they can, is Bowyer willing to take more money for perhaps a less competitive ride?

• Has Childress become disenchanted with Bowyer to the point he would consider going back to three cars? Or better yet, would he put Austin in the fourth car with somebody like Martin? Childress may have an easier time selling Dillon and Martin, particularly if he were to look at bringing back the famous No. 3 Dillon drives in the Truck series.

• How much does Bowyer's stock rise if he slips into the Chase? He needs either a win or for Brad Keselowski to get into the top 10 to be in position for a playoff spot.

Something should happen within the next two or three weeks. My gut says Bowyer will wind up back at RCR. Look at how many times Kevin Harvick seemingly has been out the door in his past two negotiations.

But the longer the negotiations take, the more skeptical I become. Until then, as Bowyer told a few members of the media at Bristol, "I'm wasting my time talking to you."

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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