Trying something new before the end of the season by debuting a couple things this week. First up is a weekly column I want to start so I can hit on some topics quickly and give my two cents. This week I touch on ESPN’s dismissal of Marty Reid, the rumored Camping World Truck Series schedule, Chase Elliott reaching out to Ty Dillon, and lots more. Continue reading “Column: Marty Reid, Truck Schedule, Chase Elliott, & More”
There has been much speculation where Martin Truex, Jr. might end up now that NAPA is pulling their sponsorship of his current ride with Michael Waltrip Racing. This weekend team owner Michael Waltrip said he is fully prepared to keep the #56 team going, but if Truex found another deal he wouldn’t stand in his way.
Early rumors connect Truex with Furniture Row Racing and Richard Childress Racing. Furniture Row needs a driver and not necessarily a sponsor, as the team owner also sponsors the car. They also have put forth the impression that they are looking at younger talents to bring up to the Cup Series, but wouldn’t say no to Truex.
Richard Childress Racing would need sponsorship for a fourth team. That reason is why Jeff Burton was cut loose, because they only had funding for half the season on a fourth entry. With NAPA leaving the Waltrip led team many speculate that they might go where Truex goes.
Not so fast, reports are coming out that NAPA might be leaving NASCAR all together after “Spingate,” although nothing official has been announced. Another kink to them staying with another team is NAPA was reportedly paying Waltrip $16 million for full season sponsorship. That number isn’t high enough for other teams to pay for a full-season of sponsorship. NAPA might have to pony up to get with a bigger team or keep paying the same on a partial-sponsorship.
On ESPN’s NASCAR Countdown commentator Rusty Wallace said that Joe Gibbs Racing would be Truex’s destination. That was rebuffed by team owner Joe Gibbs, that nothing has been talked about in regards to Truex or NAPA. They’re a team in the same situation as Childress, wanting a fourth team, but not having the funds to do so.
A lot more dominos will have to fall before this Silly Season will finish being sorted out. Just about everyone should be a player for Truex’s services at this point, it’s just a matter of if he’ll stick it out with Michael Waltrip Racing or go looking for something new.
Here’s what we do know: Once the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2013, NAPA Auto Parts will no long be the primary sponsor of the #56 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. Michael Waltrip Racing vows to run the #56 Toyota car with or without new sponsorship coming into replace NAPA and their reported $15-20 million dollar a year sponsorship.
What we don’t know is if Martin Truex, Jr., currently driving that #56 Toyota, will still be the driver when the clock strikes midnight.
There’s a whirlwind of activity going on right now for the MWR team and for Truex. News of NAPA leaving came as a shock to most, especially since Truex was at a NAPA store Thursday night promoting the brand.
In their statement on why they’re leaving MWR, NAPA said they would be reevaluating their NASCAR sponsorship. Many took that as a bad sign that the company, who’s been in NASCAR for a very long time in various divisions, would leave NASCAR all together. I take it as they want to figure out if they want to continue to sponsor just one car full-time, or maybe sponsor a whole team, or move to another series, or wilder yet sponsor an entire series.
We’ll start there, with Nationwide leaving after the 2014 season form sponsoring the second tier NASCAR Nationwide Series, so maybe NAPA would move into that direction. They’ve gotten their name out there in the Sprint Cup Series crowd, maybe dipping down and getting the recognition of a series sponsor could be what they want to do next.
Sponsoring a team versus just one driver could have its perks depending on the team you sponsor. They could spend (if money is an issue) just about the same they were spending on one team over three to four drivers. Picture this, if they went to Hendrick they could put their logo on Jimmie Johnson’s car, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s car, Kasey Kahne’s car, and Jeff Gordon’s car. Then maybe do a few races as full primary sponsor then do all sorts of promotional work with all four drivers.
If you take the same template to Stewart-Haas Racing where you have Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Danica Patrick. Especially Stewart-Haas you could market to four different demographics right there.
My gut says that NAPA stays in as a sponsor for one team, I’m just not sure where that team will be and with what driver. Truex stated after qualifying that he’s committed to MWR and being there for a while. Well, money talks and when it dries up there, he might be tempted to go elsewhere.
Furniture Row Racing needs a driver and wouldn’t mind a sponsor to join him, they could go there. They’ve talked about getting a younger driver to develop, but comments from the team this weekend indicate they’d be open to someone like Turex.
Richard Childress Racing has said they could make a fourth team, provided they could have sponsorship. The interesting part about this scenario is what happens in a few years when Ty Dillon gets promoted to Cup? Who’s the odd driver out with the team?
Other teams with open spots include Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, and Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. Gibbs and Earnhardt Ganassi haven’t indicated that they were looking to expand this year. Roush Fenway seems to have a spot left open for Trevor Bayne, if they can find sponsorship.
Immediacy up for Truex and his team is the Sylvania 300 being run Sunday at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Coverage of the race beginning around 1 PM EST on ESPN.
Michael Waltrip Racing was founded in dreams and good intentions when they decided to be the flagship for Toyota and enter the 2007 season full-time. When pressures came to them they panicked and made some poor choices, like the ones they made in Richmond two weeks ago.
Right from their first race there were bad decisions made. Michael Waltrip, driving for himself, was the driver busted for one of the biggest cheating scandal in Daytona 500 history. NASCAR found a fuel additive in his car which prompted them to suspend his crew chief David Hyder, fine Hyder $100,000 and suspended team direct Bobby Kennedy. Waltrip placed blame on unidentified individual or individuals whom he did not fire after it was all said and done. He went on to apologize and life continued in NASCAR.
Flash forward to six years to the situation in Richmond. With their backs against the wall again to get driver Martin Truex, Jr. in the Chase, a few bad eggs spoiled it all for everyone. Driver Clint Bowyer, who was locked into the Chase, mysteriously spun near the end of the race to bring out the caution. That caution helped close up the field so that race leader Ryan Newman, whom Truex was battling for the last wildcard spot, might not win the race. That worked as Newman lost spots on pit road and Carl Edwards won the race.
They also wanted to make sure Joey Logano would not drop out of the top-10 in points, thus being the last wildcard over Truex. So drivers Bowyer and Brian Vickers were ordered to slow on the track and pit multiple times so Logano could gain positions on the track.
General Manager Ty Norris was caught on the radio pleading with Vickers to pit, even though nothing was needed to be done to car. There was no way that this was Norris’ decision alone and there’s no way that Bowyer spun accidently. Once again the pressure was on to perform and MWR went the path of quick success with hopes of not being caught.
Now these actions have finally hit them where it really hurts, sponsorship. Truex’s sponsor NAPA, who was on Waltrip’s car in 2007, decided enough was enough and announced they would not be back with the team. This cuts short their contract with the team by two years and puts the team in an unenviable position of needing to do damage control, find a sponsor, and concentrate on the rest of the season.
Most of the people have cycled through the MWR shop, but one person has remained constant throughout all of these scandals. Team owner Michael Waltrip.
You have to wonder how much of this pushing the envelope comes from him. Even if he has been clueless through both scandals, he is fostering an environment where these actions are happening. If MWR wants to prove to sponsors, NASCAR, and fans that it will be changing, there needs to be a total shift in the MWR environment.
NASCAR laid down the law Monday by penalizing Michael Waltrip Racing in what the sanctioning body considered manipulation of the outcome of last Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 race at the Richmond International Raceway. The actions in question was a late race spin by driver Clint Bowyer and directions from general manager/spotter Ty Norris to driver Brian Vickers to pit because they needed a point.
What I liked is how NASCAR responded and responded big. My gut feeling at first was nothing much would happen with this and it would be swept up under the rug. Since it gained steam as a national story, then it became possible for something bigger to be done. The penalties fit the crime with the exception of one of those.
The 50 point reduction for Clint Bowyer counts towards his pre-Chase point total. In essence, he is not affected at all by this. I believe that was done because they could never conclusively determine his spin with six laps to go was intentional. Even with audio of cryptic messages from his crew to Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s testimonial, that was not enough to decide 100% Bowyer took one for the team.
It is a bit disappointing on how Michael Waltrip Racing reacted to the penalties. Sure it’s nice they won’t appeal, because that would make it really messy, but in effect MWR and owner Michael Waltrip just piled the blame on Ty Norris and moved on.
Waltrip’s statement was “What occurred on the No. 55 radio at the end of Saturday night’s race in Richmond was a split-second decision made by team spotter Ty Norris to bring the No. 55 to pit lane and help a teammate earn a place in the Chase.” I’m going to say it now; that is a bold face lie. In no way was that Norris just winging it on the spotter’s stand to get Vickers in.
There had to have been conversations earlier in the week that laid out what would happened late in a race if Truex was close, but needed help. Norris spent more than a split-second basically begging Vickers to pit. Add to that Bowyer’s crypt radio chatter that almost showed code words between he and crew chief Brian Pattie.
Which brings me to my next point another reason NASCAR had to act was how blatant this whole thing was by Michael Waltrip Racing. Bowyer spin aside, the Vickers pit talk. They had code words for Bowyer, why not Vickers? If Norris is as questionable as we’re led to believe, why not lie to Vickers and say “yeah, sure, you’re tire is going down” or something like that? Because there was a clear direction of do anything possible to get Truex into the Chase.
It sucks that Truex drove his butt off these past few weeks with a broken wrist just to be slapped in the face, but MWR should have known the consequences when they started trying to play God on the race track.
Martin Truex, Jr. comes to the Bristol Motor Speedway sitting 12th in points and in the first wild card spot. While it has him in the Chase, it’s not the ideal position with three races to go in the regular season.
His track record at Bristol has been mixed. In his last four starts he’s finished 2nd, 3rd, 11th, and 12th the most recent result. Prior to that it was 11 starts with an average finish of 22nd.
Truex is pumped to come to Thunder Valley and make it through the exciting racing. “It’s just insane (racing at Bristol) — it’s out of control. Bristol is like having a boxing match in an elevator. Everything is so right there and so packed together. The fans are on top of the action. When you’re driving the car, you’re always in the middle of something. You’re always busy and you don’t get any time to rest. It’s just an exciting place and it keeps you amped up and keeps you on the edge of your seat all night long.”
If he can’t climb up in points to the top-10, another win would go a long way in helping his Chase chances. “The NAPA team has been close to winning there. We’ve been second there a few times and third — we’ve been really good there. It would be a fun one to win. I won there in Nationwide and it sure would be great to win. We want to win everywhere, but there are certain tracks that are really cool to win at and Bristol is definitely one of them with that night race and getting to drive on top of the building with the fireworks shooting off. Yeah, that is one I want to get especially considering how close the points are with three races to go. A second win would certainly help us if we need a wild card to make it into the Chase.”
Helping out this weekend will be newly signed teammate Brian Vickers. Vickers has worked with the Michael Waltrip Racing organization the past couple of years, but now will be full-time with the #55 team in 2014. To get a head start on that, Vickers will race 12 of the next 13 final races this season.
“He’s (Vickers) been a great part-time teammate. He fits in so well with our group that Monday’s announcement to put Vickers in the seat for 12 of the 13 races left makes the most sense. It gives us all a head start and allows for a seamless transition into 2014. I think with the few races he’s run with us this year — obviously it includes a win, he’s done an incredible job. Now, he’s going to be able to help us even more as we try to lock up two of our three cars into the Chase with just three races to go,” explained Vickers.
The action gets underway Saturday at 7:30 from the Bristol Motor Speedway. The IRWIN Tools Night Race can be seen on ABC.