The happiest guy at Tony Stewart's retirement announcement press conference? That was almost certainly Clint Bowyer, the man who will replace Stewart behind the wheel of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in 2017.
"Do you ever hear that term when you fall in a pile of cow manure and come out smelling like roses?" Bowyer said Wednesday at SHR's shops in Kannapolis, North Carolina. "That's exactly what this is for me."
"I don't know if that's going to be the quote of the day or not," followed Stewart, who will become Bowyer's boss in 2017. "I can see that being the headline. Somebody has got to use that as a headline tonight. I've got to read that somewhere."
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It's been a bizarre 2015 so far for Bowyer. Earlier this year, he signed a three-year contract extension to remain with Michael Waltrip Racing. But then, just a few months later, MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman announced that he was joining forces with Chip Ganassi next year and that MWR was shutting down after this season.
Bowyer just barely made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but bad finishes in the first two Chase races, plus a 25-point NASCAR penalty for doctored rear suspension on his MWR Toyota means that Bowyer has virtually no chance of making the second round of the Chase.
The MWR penalty was upheld on appeal Wednesday at almost the same time Bowyer was announced as Stewart's replacement. It was the third time a team Bowyer drove for got caught breaking the rules in the Chase -- it happened with Richard Childress Racing in 2010 and MWR twice, first in 2013 and again in '15.
But none of that matters now, because Bowyer has landed what is close to a dream job -- he'll drive for one of the elite Cup teams, and his gregarious, hell-raising personality will be a perfect fit for SHR.
"What an unbelievable opportunity, just to think how my year started," Bowyer said Wednesday after being introduced as Stewart's replacement. "You know, you thought you were set, you thought you were good, then all of a sudden you're not, then all of a sudden that led to a door opening in one of the biggest powerhouses in the sport.
"That to me is what this world is all about is opportunities, and certainly with that opportunity, the unfortunate thing is you lose one of the boys, one of the guys that I've always had a lot of fun with, enjoyed. Whether it was racing alongside of him or beating him, banging on him and bickering about it afterwards, I always enjoyed the fact that Tony Stewart's character was on the racetrack," said Bowyer.
"That being said, damn, I'm glad that you decided to retire and open this seat up for me," Bowyer said to Stewart, "but you know, it's just all about people, it's all about culture for me, and I think the fit factor couldn't be any better."
Bowyer said he didn't need convincing to jump on the opportunity at SHR.
"Definitely when I heard that that seat was open, I was on board," he said. "They didn't have to call me."
Bowyer declined to discuss his 2016 plans, but he is expected to announce a one-year deal with HScott Motorsports this coming weekend at Dover International Speedway.