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With new wife, new contract, baby on way, Bowyer riding high as he heads home to Kansas

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Clint Bowyer is heading home to Kansas Speedway this weekend with a new wife, a baby on the way and now a three-year contract extension that will keep him with Michael Waltrip Racing.

The team announced the deal Monday, a day after Bowyer drove his No. 15 Toyota to a third-place finish at Talladega. Michael Waltrip Racing also announced an extension for crew chief Brian Pattie and said that 5-hour Energy has agreed to extend its sponsorship.

"This is big news for all of us," said Bowyer, who was in the final year of his contract. "It creates great stability and excitement about what the next few years can bring. MWR is my racing home and continuing this relationship with 5-hour Energy was a high priority. It's time to put the paperwork in a drawer and focus on winning."

With Bowyer now locked up, attention turns to Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, the top remaining free agents in the Sprint Cup Series.

Both drivers have spent their entire careers at Roush Fenway Racing, but both could be on the move. Joe Gibbs Racing, which was turned down by Edwards when he re-signed with Roush in 2011, could be interested in making another run at him to expand to four cars next season.

And although Biffle has said his first choice is to remain with Roush, he could find a new home at MWR, which has the Bowyer deal done and now has time to consider rebuilding its defunct third car.

Bowyer joined MWR in 2012, and with 5-hour Energy on board, went on to win three times and finish second in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He also qualified for the Chase last season, finishing seventh.

"Since the first day 5-hour Energy, Clint and Brian showed up at MWR, we have been a contender for wins and championships. I am so thankful that we get to continue and add to what we have built," team co-owner Michael Waltrip said in a statement. "I am most happy for the employees of MWR who are the foundation of everything we do."

Bowyer, who grew up in Emporia, Kansas, returns to the Heartland this week riding high.

He married his bride, Lorra, in the Bahamas two weeks ago, during the off week in the Sprint Cup schedule. And on Monday, he announced on Twitter they are expecting a boy.

"Boy I've had a helluva day!" Bowyer tweeted.

He's had an up-and-down season, though.

It started off at Daytona, where Bowyer flipped during a multi-car wreck at the end of the 150-mile qualifying race and went on to finish 42nd after his engine failed. But he's also had a pair of top-10s at Martinsville and Texas, and a season-best showing last weekend at Talladega.

And while it has been 51 races since Bowyer last won, that hardly deterred Waltrip from extending its relationship or 5-hour Energy from remaining on board.

"We have clearly aligned ourselves with one of the most competitive and energetic drivers in racing," said Scott Henderson, president of 5-hour Energy, "and we felt it was really important for us to continue the equity we have built over the past three years."

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