Michael Waltrip Racing is still feeling the sting of its Richmond (Va.) International Raceway controversy of Sept. 7. As a result of MWR’s attempted manipulation of the Richmond race results, longtime team sponsor NAPA is pulling the plug on its relationship with the organization.
“After thorough consideration, NAPA has made the difficult decision to end its sponsorship arrangement with Michael Waltrip Racing, effective, Dec. 31, 2013. NAPA believes in fair play and does not condone actions such as those that led to the penalties assessed by NASCAR. We remain supportive of the millions of NASCAR fans and will evaluate our future position in motorsports,” a statement from NAPA on its official Facebook page read.
After Thursday’s announcement from NAPA, Michael Waltrip Racing released the following statement:
“Michael Waltrip Racing respects the decision NASCAR announced today following the events at Richmond. 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. 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.”
During the Sept. 7 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond, MWR driver Clint Bowyer was accused of spinning on purpose late in the race to intentionally bring out a caution. Also, another Michael Waltrip Racing driver, Brian Vickers, was brought down pit road for, seemingly, no reason, all in an effort to get a third MWR driver, Martin Truex Jr., into the Chase for the Sprint Cup NASCAR postseason.
Initially, Truex did make the Chase, but after NASCAR investigated the actions of the MWR organization, as a whole, Truex’s team was docked 50 points, knocking Truex out of the Chase, replacing him with Ryan Truex. Michael Waltrip Racing was also fined $300,000 and team General Manager Ty Norris was indefinitely suspended from NASCAR.
NAPA had a deal with Michael Waltrip Racing to be the primary sponsor on Truex’s No. 56 through 2015.
Later on Thursday, Michael Waltrip issued his own personal apology:
“NAPA has been with me from winning two Daytona 500s, to missing races with a new start-up team, and back to victory lane again. The relationship grew far past that of just a sponsor, but more of a partner and a friend. We will not be racing a NAPA car in 2014, but I have friendships that will laps a lifetime. To the fans and those who made their voice heard through social media, as the owner, I am responsible for all actions of MWR. I sincerely apologize for the role our team played and for the lines NASCAR has ruled were crossed by our actions sat Richmond. NASCAR met with the competitors in Chicago and we all know how we are expected to race forward.”
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR