What’s next for Clint Bowyer?

This week, the Emporia native and NASCAR driver reached an agreement with Michael Waltrip Racing to part ways at the end of this season.

The split comes with Bowyer trying to stay in the Chase for the Sprint Cup and rev up the back half of the current season. Bowyer currently sits 16th, so he has the last spot in the field with three races left to solidify things. It also comes as Bowyer tries to remove himself from the middle of the pack when it comes to Top-10 finishes and, more importantly, wins. He hasn’t won since nabbing three victories in 2012, the same year he finished in the top 10 23 times.

So how does Bowyer proceed? When the Kaufman rumors surfaced earlier this summer, it appeared a contract with Ganassi was at least possible. That has pretty much been squashed now. Rob Kaufman, a co-owner of MWR who is buying into Ganassi, said he and Bowyer “agreed we would go our separate ways at the end of the season and I wish him well in whatever direction he pursues.”

So, um, no, Clint’s not getting a contract with Chip Ganassi.

Does Bowyer sign a one-year deal? He may have to. None of the major teams has a slot available for next year. If that’s the next step, who would he sign with? And where does he go from there? A lot of buzz has him eventually linking up with Stewart-Haas — and should that happen, believe it or not the talk is he would replace Tony Stewart. Yes, the first half of Stewart-Haas, who has been struggling mightily all season long.

Barring something unexpected from the sport’s other teams, including adding a slot just to secure Bowyer, this appears to be the likely scenario. The way it sounds, 5-hour Energy is going with Bowyer wherever he lands if that’s allowed. That is a comfort to Bowyer and to whomever lands him because sponsorship dollars are so prized in NASCAR. It’s also a big sign of stability in an uncertain time for Bowyer.

At least Bowyer has options. His racing team doesn’t. MWR, struggling over the past few years, is essentially done — not a surprise after it was announced Kaufman was buying into Ganassi instead.

Yesterday, I wrote the Oakland Raiders did ESU graduate Austin Willis a favor by cutting him early in training camp so he could possibly latch on to another team. The same thing applies here. And as a result, Bowyer could become a pretty highly-sought free agent — if not for this year, for the 2017 season. Stay tuned.