Bowyer returns home to Kansas for 300th Sprint Cup start

Kansas City, KS ( - Clint Bowyer has had quite a week already, and he's hoping it will end with a victory at Kansas Speedway, his home track, on Saturday night.

On Monday, Michael Waltrip Racing announced that Bowyer as well as crew chief Brian Pattie and sponsor 5-Hour Energy have signed multiyear contract extensions with the team in the Sprint Cup Series. Bowyer, who hails from Emporia, Kan., has been driving the No. 15 Toyota for MWR since the start of the 2012 season.

Bowyer also revealed on the same day as his contract extension that he and his wife, Lorra, are expecting a baby boy. The couple got married in the Bahamas the third weekend in April -- the first off-week for the series.

Now Bowyer is looking forward to racing at Kansas, where he will make his 300th career Sprint Cup start. Ironically, 5-Hour Energy is the title sponsor of the 400-mile race at Kansas.

"It's been a helluva week," Bowyer said on Friday. "We've had a lot of fun. Coming back to Kansas first and foremost is always big for me."

This will be the first time the series competes under the lights at this 1.5- mile track. Kansas and Darlington switched their Mother's Day weekend dates for the 2014 season.

Speaking of Mother's Day, Bowyer's mom, Jana Bowyer, is scheduled to wave the green flag for the start of Sprint Cup race at Kansas.

"It's pretty cool that they asked her to wave the green flag," he said. "We are a pretty close family, so we've all been ragging her a little bit, saying, 'Don't drop the flag, Mom, just whatever you do, do not drop the flag.' I hope there's not a caution."

Last Sunday, Denny Hamlin celebrated his 300th start in the series by winning at Talladega Superspeedway. Hamlin joined Ned Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch as the drivers who won on their 300th starts.

Can Bowyer be the next one to do it?

Bowyer made his Cup debut on April 23, 2005 at Phoenix, where he started 25th and finished 22nd in a Richard Childress Racing car. He drove for RCR until the conclusion of the 2011 season before moving over to Michael Waltrip's team.

In 299 career starts, Bowyer has scored eight wins, 52 top-five finishes, 140 top-10s and two poles. He hasn't won a race since October 2012 at Charlotte (51 races ago). Bowyer has qualified for the championship Chase five times, including the past two years. He finished second in the point standings in 2012.

"To be around this sport for 300 starts and announce that you're going to be around for a lot more starts is pretty special," he said. "It's weird that it all comes down at Kansas Speedway, last race before the cutoff to get into the All-Star race [May 17 at Charlotte], and all the stars are aligning. It's been a good week."

Bowyer endured a rough start to this season, as he sat 23rd in points after the March 23 race in Fontana, Calif. He finished 42nd in the Feb. 23 Daytona 500 after suffering engine failure. Bowyer has scored three top-10 finishes in the last five races, including a season-best third-place run at Talladega. He is currently 18th in points.

"I think Daytona kind of set our season when we started with a barrel roll - flipped on the front straightaway at the end of the race [in the second Daytona 500 qualifier]," Bowyer said. "And then the very next attempt [Daytona 500], the engine blew up halfway through the race. I'm like 'Can we skip this year? This is not starting very good.'

"Last weekend at Talladega was a lot of good news. A lot of good momentum and mojo around our 15 team. It couldn't come at a better time."

Bowyer has yet to win a Cup race at Kansas. He has earned five top-10 finishes in 11 starts here. His best finish at this track is second, which came 2007.

Forty-four teams are on the entry list for the 5-Hour Energy 400. Ryan Blaney, a Camping World Truck Series regular and 20-year-old son of NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, is making his Sprint Cup debut in this race.

Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Saturday, May 10. Race: 5-Hour Energy 400. Site: Kansas Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile tri-oval. Start time: 7:30 p.m. ET. Laps: 267. Miles: 400.5. 2013 Winner: Matt Kenseth. Television: FOX. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.