5-Hour Energy Won't Commit To MWR For '14 Scandal Fallout Continues
5-Hour Energy yesterday refused "to give a firm commitment" that the company would remain with Michael Waltrip Racing and sponsor driver Clint Bowyer's car in '14, according to Dan Gelston of the AP. 5-Hour Energy President Scott Henderson said, "We'll see how the year plays out. ... There's a lot of talk about integrity. When the guy who's in charge can say, 'I can do whatever I want and I'm going to do it and I just did,' I wonder about integrity. I want to make sure we can win in this sport, OK?" Gelston noted it was "unclear if he was referring" to NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France (AP, 9/22). Waltrip on Friday said that with the backing of MWR co-Owner Rob Kauffman, the "intent is still to field three race teams" in '14. Waltrip said, "It’s been a rocky couple of weeks. Yes, I was scared and uncertain about our future. After speaking with folks from Aaron’s [driver Brian Vickers’ primary sponsor] and all of our partners, they’re supporting us. They’re sticking with us.” He added that he has "talked to 5-Hour Energy" and the company is "on board to continue" in '14. Waltrip said of NAPA's decision to withdraw its sponsorship of MWR and driver Martin Truex Jr., "They felt like the events of the last 10 days had spiraled out of control a bit. They felt like what we were involved with -- and NASCAR penalized us for -- was more than they were comfortable dealing with. ... We put them in that position -- in a bad spot" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/21). In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell wrote Waltrip was "contrite and patient" on Friday. He "lost his cool once, ever so briefly, when asked in so many words why he wasn’t more forthcoming about exactly what his operation had done wrong at the race" in Richmond. Waltrip: "Do they want an arm? What are they looking for?" Bonnell wrote this "won’t be the last time Waltrip’s patience is tested over this episode." It could take "months, maybe years, for him to earn back his operation’s reputation and the fans’ trust," and the "financial viability of MWR is at stake" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/22).
RUNNING OUT OF TIME: The AP's Gelston wrote Truex in seeking a funded ride has "little time to piece together a deal and few options." Truex said on Friday, "There's not a whole lot out there." Truex "would like to stay at MWR," but he "doesn't know if NAPA would follow him to another team." SMI Chair & CEO Bruton Smith, who helped bring NAPA into NASCAR, said, "They should have swallowed and moved on. They're going to lose more picking up and running than they would have had they stayed right here." Meanwhile, Waltrip said that he "had a meeting set" this past weekend with 5-Hour Energy's Henderson (AP, 9/20).
INCIDENT HURTS POTENTIAL SPONSORS: ESPN's Rusty Wallace said of NAPA's departure from MWR, "I can’t remember the last time a sponsor has left a team because they were embarrassed. This is something that everybody’s going to learn from. This is a huge lesson learned right here. A lot of people are thinking, drivers, owners, everybody. You got to do the right stuff for these sponsors and for this sport.” ESPN's Brad Daugherty: "That’s a seismic shift when you have a sponsor that size deciding what its future may be in the sport” (“NASCAR Countdown,” ESPN, 9/22). The CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's Bonnell noted driver Kyle Busch had "a strong opinion on the corrosive effect this had on sponsor relations." Busch said, "It's a tough economy, a tough (time in) the sport to pick up sponsors and bring them on in. It's frustrating. There are a lot of race fans sometimes voicing an opinion that there aren’t enough competitive cars every week. Then they’ll send in comments to sponsors that they shouldn’t sponsor that team or that driver because of things that happen on the race track. All that does is drive sponsors away from our sport" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/22).