MWR Willing To Let Truex Leave If Sponsorship Not Found, But Expects Three Cars In '14
Michael Waltrip Racing team owner Michael Waltrip is "willing to let driver Martin Truex Jr. leave for another team" if MWR is "unable to find sponsorship for the No. 56 car in 2014" following the loss of NAPA, according to Dan Gelston of the AP. Waltrip Friday morning said, "If he came to me tomorrow and said, 'I got a deal to go do something,' then obviously I would not hold him back. I owe him a lot for his loyalty and his passion for our team. I wouldn't hold him back from doing something he wanted to do, but I'd like him to hang around so we can attract a sponsor and keep him in our cars." Gelston reports Aaron's, the primary sponsor of Brian Vickers' No. 55, "remains dedicated to the organization." However, 5-Hour Energy on Thursday indicated that it was "still evaluating its relationship with MWR." The energy drink company is the primary sponsor of Clint Bowyer's No. 15. Waltrip on Friday said he ''fully expects'' 5-Hour Energy to remain with the team. He added that MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman "could help fund Truex" next season (AP, 9/20). ESPN's Ryan McGee said the "next question" for MWR is the status of 5-Hour Energy. McGee: "What are they going to say? Are they going to say, 'Alright, we're with NAPA. We're gone, we're embarrassed too.' Or can you convince them to stay on board? Losing one giant sponsor is bad enough. Losing two, I don't want to think about what that might to down the road" ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 9/20).
A BAD SITUATION: USA TODAY's Nate Ryan notes Waltrip has "survived more withering adversity than virtually anyone in the Sprint Cup Series, but the impending loss of NAPA ... is easily the worst predicament." Ryan: "What's at stake for Waltrip? His career. His reputation. His team." Finding primary sponsorship for Truex "will be far from an easy sell," and there already "might be a need to prioritize damage control on the home front with MWR's other major backers" (USA TODAY, 9/20). YAHOO SPORTS' Nick Bromberg wrote to say the "future of the No. 56 car is in limbo would not be an overstatement." The future of "another car and driver combination could soon be solidified" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/19).
MAKING A STATEMENT: MRN Radio's Pete Pistone wrote NAPA made the "boldest statement of anyone involved" in the scandal. The company’s "message was clear: integrity and morals do matter even in the often-muddy waters of big-time stock car racing, and NAPA was not going to stand for being associated with it." NAPA has "been through a lot with MWR during the course of its relationship with the team, including the infamous jet fuel incident at Daytona in 2007." But what "transpired in Richmond went beyond a team trying to find an edge with an illegal fuel substance or struggling to be competitive on a regular basis." Pistone: "Pure and simple, MWR cheated up the rules and the spirit of competition so far that the very legitimacy of the entire sport was thrown into question" (MRN.com, 9/19). SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass wrote, "Don’t blame NAPA. Don’t blame NASCAR. Don’t blame the media. Don’t blame Twitter. This one is on Michael Waltrip Racing." It is "just another unfortunate result when money and the drive to win cloud one's judgement." Even if NASCAR "didn’t penalize MWR, fans saw what happened." Pockrass: "No company wants to be associated with the idea that the end justifies the means" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 9/19).