CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Always popular among his peers, Clint Bowyer over the last two seasons has slowly become one of NASCAR's newest stars.
Part of it is the atmosphere at Michael Waltrip Racing, the team he joined before the 2012 season, and the partnership with 5-Hour Energy, a product that seems made specifically for Bowyer.
"I've been able to kind of come into my own and be my own self a little bit more since going to MWR," Bowyer said. "The sponsor, everything, just all of my surroundings kind of enabled me to be who I am, so it probably comes out a little bit more."
But no amount of witty one-liners or sharp comebacks can keep the spotlight on a driver. There must be on-track results, and Bowyer's gotten that since moving to MWR after six Sprint Cup seasons with Richard Childress Racing.
Although Bowyer made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship three times with RCR, his first season with Waltrip was his breakout year. Bowyer won three races and finished second in the standings, both career bests.
And that's what has made Bowyer and his larger-than-life personality more noticeable in NASCAR.
"More importantly, probably just running better. I think you just see more of me," he said. "I really truly believe that's what it is. With running better, you see more appearances."
Bowyer is hoping for his breakout performance of 2013 this weekend at Richmond, where he won last September and has a strong record. Bowyer has eight top-10 finishes in 14 starts at Richmond. He goes into the race ranked eighth in the standings with four top-10 finishes this year, but only one lap led.
He's hoping to turn that around Saturday night.
"Once you win at a race track, every time you go back there after that, there's always something you can carry in, and that's confidence," Bowyer said.
"We had a solid run, a top 5 run at Kansas at home, and a little extra boost of confidence and momentum rolling into a track that's really good for me. So yes, absolutely. I'm looking forward to getting to Richmond. I know the boys are, and they're going to have the racer set on full for me."