The second-happiest driver to take the checkered flag at Homestead-Miami Speedway behind the seven-time NASCAR Premier Series champion Jimmie Johnson may well have been Clint Bowyer.

Bowyer, who as recently as 2012 finished second in the championship race, wound up 27th in points in 2016, a full 10 spots behind his worst previous career points finish.

In 2016, Bowyer had no wins, no poles, no top fives, three top 10s and only three laps led in 36 races.

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But it really had more to do with the team than it did the driver. A lot more, actually.

A quick history lesson: In early 2015, Bowyer signed a new contract to stay at Michael Waltrip Racing, where he had been since 2012. Then in the summer of '15, team owner Rob Kauffman announced he was pulling the plug and shutting the team down at the end of the season.

Bowyer then signed a deal to replace Tony Stewart at the powerhouse Stewart-Haas Racing team in 2017, where he is expected to once again contend for race victories and the championship.

That left 2016 to figure out. Bowyer inked a one-year-only contract to drive for the small HScott Motorsports team, a squad that does the best it can with what it has, but has a fraction of the resources of the big teams.

That led to a forgettable season for Bowyer, but in an exclusive interview with FOXSports.com, Bowyer said he's excited about the future.

Still, 2016 was a tough pill to swallow.

"It's such a long, grueling schedule for everybody involved," Bowyer told FOXSports.com. "And then having that opportunity ahead at Stewart-Haas and getting to know those guys and having to learn new people, new partners, new manufacturer, new teammates."

It will be a big change and big step up for Bowyer.

"There's so much new to go over there to," said Bowyer. "And new is always fun and exciting."

Bowyer is ready to be in a competitive car again.

"The performance Stewart-Haas has had is second to none really, in the last five or six years," he said. "That's why I took that opportunity."

And despite his struggles, Bowyer has ho regrets about his year with HScott.

"It was a year waiting," said Bowyer. "Thank God Harry Scott and his organization came along, because truth be told, I signed that deal (with Stewart-Haas) prepared to sit on the couch and wait a year. It's been a frustrating year, but it damn sure beat sitting on the couch all year long."