A year ago, most of the attention at resurgent Richard Childress Racing focused on Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton.
Rookie teammate Clint Bowyer had a solid, if unspectacular, season while his veteran teammates qualified for NASCAR's season-ending Chase for the Nextel Cup championship.
Now, six races into the season, the 27-year-old from Kansas is right up front with his more experienced teammates.
Heading into next week's race at Texas Motor Speedway, Burton is second to series leader Jeff Gordon, Bowyer is seventh and Harvick is 10th.
Bowyer already has three top 10 finishes. Last season, he had four top fives, 11 top 10s and finished 17th in the final standings.