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Michael Waltrip Racing to lose NAPA sponsorship at year’s end

Sep 19, 2013, 12:18 PM EDT

Party in the Poconos 400 - Practice Getty Images

In the wake of Michael Waltrip Racing’s attempted manipulation of the race finish at Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 7, NAPA Auto Parts has announced that it will leave the team after this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

Last week, NAPA and fellow MWR sponsor 5-Hour Energy expressed their disappointment at MWR’s role in the Richmond scandal, with NAPA saying it would hold a review of its sponsorship with the team.

NAPA posted the following statement on its Facebook page this morning regarding their decision to leave:

NAPA-backed driver Martin Truex Jr. was knocked out of the Chase for the Sprint Cup after NASCAR heavily penalized the team with points deductions for all three drivers, probation for their crew chiefs, a $300,000 fine, and an indefinite suspension for general manager Ty Norris.

Clint Bowyer (who is backed by 5-Hour Energy) spun out with seven laps to go at Richmond to bring out the caution, while fellow MWR driver Brian Vickers was ordered to pit in the closing laps to give up his track position. Both of those moves, according to NASCAR, were made to help Truex get into the post-season.

But while NASCAR delivered a swift judgment with their penalties of MWR, the fact still remains that MWR has suffered its biggest post-Richmond blow today, as major sponsors such as NAPA are the life blood of the sport.

In a statement, team co-owner Michael Waltrip said that as the owner, he takes full responsibility for the actions of the team.

“I sincerely apologize for the role our team played and for the lines NASCAR has ruled were crossed by our actions at Richmond,” he said. “NASCAR met with the competitors in Chicago and we all know how we are expected to race forward.”

A statement for the entire team was also released, in which MWR writes that it “respects” NAPA’s decision to part ways with the team.

“There is no doubt, the story of Michael Waltrip Racing begins with NAPA Auto Parts, but there are many more chapters yet to be written,” the team said. “MWR has the infrastructure and support of Toyota for three teams plus three Chase-caliber, race-winning drivers.

“With the support of our corporate partners, we are preparing to field three teams in 2014. MWR is a resilient organization capable of winning races and competing for the championship and that remains our sole focus.”

NAPA has had a working relationship with Waltrip since 2001, and served as his primary sponsor for his two Daytona 500 victories in ’01 and 2003. They also joined him for his creation of Michael Waltrip Racing in 2007, and stayed on to sponsor Truex when he replaced Waltrip as a full-time driver in 2010.

But while the team still plans on staying a three-car franchise, NAPA’s departure would seem to make that plan, currently, a very iffy one.

If they can’t replace the lost money, the consequences could be disastrous. In that situation, the AP’s Jenna Fryer writes that a group of nearly 100 employees could be facing layoffs. Additionally, Truex could find himself out of a ride as well.

  1. wallio - Sep 19, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    I’m surprised at this. They stayed on when they had sterno gel in the intake, but not this? Which happens in EVERY other motorsport, and haw happened in NASCAR for decades prior? Seems strange to be. But its their money.

  2. bigmattintheboot - Sep 19, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    The difference now is you have the media to immediately throw things into the lime light when something happens. Sure cheating is as commonplace as anything but there’s that many more eyes and ears on this stuff now and though I say its bullshit it’s naive to think it doesn’t still exist. More still is the severe disappointment in Clint, we need more guys on the circuit like him since much like Carl and Kevin and Tony, they get what it takes OFF the track to keep this whole thing interesting for the tom dick and harrys watching.

    I like Mikey a lot and they have made leaps and bounds in their organization in the last number of years. Hell even connecting with the world of sports cars which I have a great deal of respect and it’s shown on-track. But when all is said and done you gotta do things by the book. NASCAR is judge jury and executioner all in one and as its been said many times over, they can continue on doing their business without YOU. I wish MWR the best and sincerely hope that NAPA plans to stick around in the Cup series. We need to keep those kinds of sponsors that belong within the sport without more Chicken Pit cars.

  3. Jeff - Sep 19, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    Meanwhile Penske skates by again.

  4. charger383 - Sep 19, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    hope NAPA sponsors something other than a Toyota

    • smokeyt - Sep 19, 2013 at 8:31 PM

      Maybe they will sponsor Kurt at SHR.

  5. noring4youstill - Sep 19, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    Exactly my thoughts. Kurt’s new sponsor

    • barkar942 - Sep 19, 2013 at 9:00 PM

      Sorry- I can’t see them sponsoring a potential PR time bomb in Kurt.
      HENDRICKCAR will have their newest sponsor for their poster child, Jeffy.

  6. drylake - Sep 20, 2013 at 12:13 AM

    MWR is an absolute disgrace. Mr. true blue American decided to push it too far. Glad to see that doofus with his doofus smile shown to be a CHEATER. Michael Waltrip alone is responsible for 100 employees getting laid off, not NAPA. Finally some integrity from a sponsor.

  7. footballchic777 - Sep 20, 2013 at 12:38 AM

    Finally some integrity by a sponsor? If there wasn’t money to be had better somewhere else, they wouldn’t be moving. It has nothing to do with integrity. Every team pulls this kind of crap, so it is not like they are going to go to some lily white team. NAPA is using this as a way out.

  8. bmcgrath2 - Sep 20, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    Yet again, the #15 team of Clint Bowyer who started this whole mess is still pushing through unscathed.

  9. techmeister1 - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    Waltrip finally got part of the punishment he deserves. The fact that Toyota did not drop him shows their lack of integrity, IMO.

    Waltrip is a B.S.’er and a cheat. He got away with the first cheating incident where they were caught with a fuel additive but he couldn’t B.S. his way out of the radio conversations. The really unfortunate part is that Truex got punished for everyone else’s cheating. Truex has been driving the wheels off the car and he’s just not had much luck. Now he gets booted from the Chase because of Waltrip and company’s cheating. That is simply unfair to Truex who did absolutely nothing wrong. NASCAR should have let Truex race and penalize the others.

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