Michael Waltrip Racing said in a statement it respects NAPA’s decision.
“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 statement 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.”
Waltrip also credited NAPA for his success as a driver and team owner.
“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,” he said. “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 last a lifetime.”
The loss of a primary sponsor, particularly with only nine races left in the season, is a big blow to Waltrip. It will be a tremendous challenge to quickly replace the money because NAPA is a rare sponsor that covers the entire 36-race Sprint Cup schedule.
Should MWR not secure sponsorship to replace NAPA, it could lead to layoffs of nearly 100 employees and the possible shuttering of Truex’s team. Truex could be out of job, as well.
One solution could have been a partnership with Furniture Row Racing, which will lose its lone driver, Kurt Busch, after this season. Furniture Row tried during the summer to defect from Chevrolet to Toyota, only to learn Toyota didn’t have the space to accommodate another team.
An alliance with MWR could have gotten Furniture Row in the Toyota family, and been a potential landing spot for Truex should Waltrip fail to figure out another solution to save his third car. But Furniture Row a week ago agreed to continue its arrangement with Chevrolet team Richard Childress Racing.
MWR also fields cars for Bowyer and Vickers, the two drivers who actively participated in the manipulations at Richmond to get Truex into the Chase. Bowyer spun with seven laps remaining to bring out a caution that prevented Newman from winning the race, and Vickers pitted late to benefit Truex.