MWR Cuts Third Sprint Cup Team In Wake Of Losing NAPA Sponsorship
Michael Waltrip Racing will "downsize from three to two full-time Sprint Cup teams next season after big-ticket sponsor NAPA left last month," according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. MWR will "field the Toyotas that have been driven by Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers, shuttering the No. 56 Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. that was sponsored by NAPA." A third car will "run in select races," starting with co-Owner Michael Waltrip at the '14 Daytona 500. While the team is "losing roughly a third of its sponsor revenue with NAPA's departure, 85% of MWR's employees will be retained." Truex and crew chief Chad Johnson have "been given permission to negotiate with other teams." Truex is "the favorite to fill in at Furniture Row Racing next season when Kurt Busch leaves to become the fourth driver at Stewart-Haas Racing." It is not known if NAPA would join Truex "in such a move." MWR "isn't certain how many races it'll field a third car." Team co-Owner Rob Kauffman was "optimistic it could land some additional sponsorship." However, Kauffman "won't be funding it out of his own pocket," as he has done to "help fill gaps on Bowyer's car this year" with sponsorship by his RK Motors restoration business (USA TODAY, 10/15). Kauffman: “When you need to look at a reorganization of a company, you have to be very open-minded about everything you consider. ... We have some important responsibilities to all of our employees, to our partners and sponsors so we needed to make a decision in a compressed time frame” ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 10/15). Meanwhile, Kauffman said that MWR's relationship with Toyota "had not been compromised from the downsizing." He said Toyota execs have been "terrific supporters, very helpful through this period as they have been all along" (FOXSPORTS.com, 10/14).
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE DRIVER'S SEAT: SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass noted Kauffman "would not say if MWR looked to keep Truex at the expense of Vickers, who already has a contract with the team and sponsor Aaron's for next season." Vickers will "miss the final four races of 2013 because of a blood clot in his right calf." Kauffman said that Vickers' health is "their first concern and was not ready to talk about what the team would do if he can't return" for next season (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 10/14). Meanwhile, Fox' Larry McReynolds wondered where NAPA would go next season. McReynolds: "Do they follow Martin Truex Jr? Do they take a year off from the sport, which I would certainly hate to see?" ("NASCAR Race Hub," FS1, 10/14).
ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION? Kauffman discussed the Chase for the Sprint Cup and said, "It's not a matter of simply just being there. We wanted to make sure we were able to field even more competitive cars in the future. The team that won the championship last year (Penske Racing) had two cars, so it seems like that's something you can potentially strive do." ESPN's Ricky Craven said of Kauffman, "He has very good business sense and this announcement reflects that. Cutting back a team allows you to be more efficient, and even though you're giving up something on the top line as far as income, you're going to be more efficient and essentially could be faster" ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 10/14).