Tag: Michael Waltrip Racing

FOX Wrong on MWR Reporting

It’s weird to think that FOX Sports could be wrong in its reporting about Michael Waltrip Racing. Especially since, you know, the team owner works for FOX Sports. But here we are and apparently there were no Danica Patrick yoga poses to talk about, so instead erroneous reports about MWR’s future with Toyota were to be had. Here’s Toyota’s Andy Graves calling out FOX digital editor Jay Pennell about his reporting.

 

To his credit, Pennell doesn’t dwell on the call out and bounces along as if nothing happened. It’s FOX, so I’m sure nothing will happen until more “news” breaks.

Kauffman, Bowyer Set For New NASCAR Life

News broke Wednesday that Rob Kauffman, majority owner of Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR), was closing in on purchasing Felix Sabates’ stake in Chip Ganassi Racing. (CGR)This will be a duel commentary post taking a look at Kauffman and driver Clint Bowyer’s potential revitalization. Continue reading “Kauffman, Bowyer Set For New NASCAR Life”

Waltrip Setting Stage To Exit NASCAR Ownership

News broke Wednesday that Rob Kauffman, majority owner of Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR), was closing in on purchasing Felix Sabates’ stake in Chip Ganassi Racing. This will be a duel commentary post taking a look at Waltrip in this piece and how ownership has gone for the goofy pitchman.

While all parties are mum on the situation, it is amazing that Waltrip had not been run out of ownership sooner given what his history has been in the position. Waltrip founded his team on the foundation of being a Toyota flag ship for their entry into NASCAR in 2007. It didn’t take long for the goofy pitchman’s luster to start wearing off. At the season opening Daytona 500, the team was found to have used jet fuel in their cars to get an advantage. NASCAR did not look kindly on this infraction handing out suspensions, monetary and points fines, and stripping the teams of their qualifying times. What a great first impression for Toyota into a sport that already had fans annoyed with a non-American company entering into it.

The season would not continue any less smooth as the teams of Waltrip (#55), Dale Jarrett (#44), and David Reutimann (#00) routinely missed races. Reutimann missing 10, Jarrett missing 12, and Waltrip’s team missing 17. This kind of performance ran Jarrett out of the sport after five races in 2008 (planned in advance of the season, but you have to wonder how forced his hand was after 2007), but more importantly left Waltrip on the brink of bankruptcy once sponsors began jettisoning the team.

Enter Kauffman, who brought a boat load of cash to the organization, enough to become majority owner of the team baring Waltrip’s name. The next season was slightly better with Waltrip and Reutimann starting all the races, but the team nearly destroy Michael McDowell’s career before it started by pushing him into the #00 car. By 2009, the #44 team folder with Reutimann returning to the 00 and Waltrip took his last run for a full season in the #55.

The team turned around and hit its stride during this time period with Reutimann collecting wins in 2009 and 2010. The team added Martin Truex Jr into the mix in 2011, then in true Waltrip fashion, unceremoniously tossed Reutimann (a loyal Waltrip guy) to the curb so late in 2011 he could not find a ride and never fully recovered. That opened the door for Clint Bowyer to join the team for 2012 and they were rewarded with three wins from his team and a 2nd place finish in the points.

Just when things looked their brightest in 2013, Waltrip done Waltrip’d himself again. Truex won at Sonoma, fill in Brian Vickers won at New Hampshire, and the team was poised to have Truex and Bowyer in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. During the Richmond race, final regular season race, Bowyer got directions to cause a caution to the benefit of Truex to make the Chase. NASCAR figured out the charade and kicked Truex out of the Chase. That resulted in sponsor NAPA, having been with Waltrip since 2001, leaving the organization (and almost NASCAR) and Truex was left without a ride.

Both last season and this season the team has been average at best, running mid to late 20’s each weekend. This past week saw Toyota be non-committal when asked about MWR’s future, along with longtime supporter Aaron’s on if they would return to the #55 next season.

For Waltrip, he’s a goofy pitchman whose antics helped keep sponsors happy while his performance was in the toilet, but that act I believe has finally worn off. While he’ll still have his gig as FOX Sports talking head, with Kauffman leaving (with Clint Bowyer), it’s hard to believe he has the finances to continue, much less the desire to keep his team afloat.

Michael Waltrip Racing Switching From Title Hunters To Spoilers

It was one year ago that Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) went from euphoria of having two of their three cars in the Chase for the Sprint Cup to feeling the wrath of NASCAR for potentially fixing the outcome of the race. That snowball led to the shutdown of one of their teams, leaving the two cars of Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers. This leaner, and potentially meaner, MWR had their sights on getting both cars into the Chase this season to make up for last season’s misfortune.

Instead neither Vickers nor Bowyer were able to get their Toyotas into the Chase field of 16 this season. While Vickers had a shot if he won Richmond, it was Bowyer who was mathematically still in the hunt. Even though Greg Biffle did all he could to give the spot to Bowyer, Bowyer came up short finishing third on the night.

After the race, Bowyer alluded to changes coming to his team and I suspect all of the MWR organization. They were embarrassed last season with what happened at Richmond and now they’re embarrassed that they couldn’t get one car into the Chase.

After the race when Bowyer was asked about changes, he seemed distant in his response. This was maybe because of knowing how hard he fought and coming up short, or maybe he’s realizing they’re not as close to a championship as they were just a few seasons ago.

“Well, they say they are (on changes coming soon for the team). We’ll just have to see. Everybody is working hard, everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development), everybody at MWR,” commented Bowyer.

Even if he made the Chase, it would have been coming into it with a whimper and not a bang.

“When you make that Chase you want to be able to compete for a championship and I’m an optimist but I’m a realist and right now realistically we don’t have a shot at winning that championship against the competition we’re running against. We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of racing left to build on and win some races and piss them guys off running for a championship,” Bowyer continued.

You could just chalk up the season to bad luck for him and his team, as Bowyer explained. “This is the way our season has been all year is we’ll have a strong run like this and then something stupid will happen like the damn transmission breaking in half and it forces you back in a hole and you spend the next month digging yourself out of that hole. We just never could race like we did tonight all season long. We never could just let it all hang out and go for it because of that situation. We would get a step ahead and have a good run and the very next week we’d get our wings clipped out from underneath us.”

Bowyer’s comments were echoed by Vickers, who summed up his season so far very similarly.

“We’ve had some really bad luck this year. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, we made our own mistakes and every team is going to make mistakes throughout the year — we just had too much go wrong out of our control to make up for our turn in the barrel,” said Vickers after the race.

With ten races to go and nothing much to lose, could changes come in the form of personnel within the organization or will they use these races as test sessions working towards 2015? It is too early to tell, but they will be one wildcard team for the remaining races as they sort out their situation and try to play spoiler to those running for the title.

Column: Keselowski, Debuts, Talladega, MWR, and Irvan Returns

In this week’s column I take a look at the most recent Sprint Cup Series winner, Brad Keselowski, along with the three drivers who made their Cup debuts Saturday under the lights. My two cents on the Michael Waltrip Racing situation that came out Monday. And to round things out I will touch on what a wildcard Talladega is to the Chase and a former Talladega winner is back involved in NASCAR. Continue reading “Column: Keselowski, Debuts, Talladega, MWR, and Irvan Returns”

Truex To Joe Gibbs Racing?

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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.

What Now For NAPA And Truex?

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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.