NAPA Auto Parts today dropped its sponsorship of Michael Waltrip Racing and said it will evaluate its future in motorsports. The decision follows MWR’s effort to manipulate the end of NASCAR’s recent race in Richmond in order to get NAPA driver Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. NASCAR last week penalized MWR $300,000, removed Truex from the Chase and suspended MWR GM Ty Norris. In a posting on Facebook, NAPA said it “believes in fair play and does not condone actions such as those that led to the penalties assessed by NASCAR. We remain supportive of the millions of NASCAR fans and will evaluate our future position in motorsports.” NAPA had two years left on a three-year, 36-race, primary sponsorship agreement with MWR. The deal was valued at $16M a year and could be worth more than $18M a year with Chase incentives and performance bonuses. It was one of a handful of full-season primary sponsors left in NASCAR. NAPA had sponsored MWR since '07 and Michael Waltrip since '01. In a statement, MWR said it would field three teams again next year despite needing sponsorship for its No. 56 car after losing NAPA. It added, “MWR is a resilient organization capable of winning races and competing for the championship and that remains our sole focus.” Sources said that following the Richmond race, Norris and Waltrip went to NASCAR President Mike Helton and told him NAPA might leave the team and the sport if NASCAR assessed heavy penalties on the team. The company had exit clauses that allowed it to terminate its contract early, and it chose to exercise those. NAPA in a statement said, “We remain supportive of the millions of NASCAR fans and will evaluate our future position in motorsports.” The company’s other major motorsports sponsorship is of funny car drag racer Ron Capps and Don Schumacher Racing (Tripp Mickle, Staff Writer).
BAD TIMING: The AP's Jenna Fryer reports the loss of a primary sponsor, "particularly with only nine races left in the season, will be a crippling blow to the Waltrip organization." It will be a "tremendous challenge to quickly replace the money," estimated at $15M a year at least, because NAPA is a "rare sponsor that covers that entire 36-race Sprint Cup schedule" (AP, 9/19). NASCAR.com's David Caraviello: "NAPA departure made even bigger by fact they covered nearly the whole No. 56 car, and didn't split season. Oh and 5 months 'til Daytona 500."
TWITTER REAX: NASCAR blogger Shawn Courchesne: "NAPA made it through the rocket fuel deal and Michael Waltrip flipping his car and walking home in his socks. No shock they're leaving." Blogger Tom Bowles: "NAPA had one of the biggest #NASCAR TV presences out there. Now, they're telling corporate America, 'We're leaving 'cause they're cheating.'" Yahoo Sports' Jay Busbee: "On the plus side, at least we won't see Waltrip and Truex singing Napa Know-How commercials anymore."