NASCAR: NAPA ends twelve year sponsorship with MWR

Posted Sep 21, 2013 by Lizz Riggs
The punishment continues for Michael Waltrip Racing. NAPA has announced it's decision to vacate the final two seasons as Martin Truex Jr.'s sponsor.
Amy Marbach
While team owner Michael Waltrip remained hopeful during his new meeting with the press on Friday morning, he will need to find more than $30 million in funding for the next two years now that NAPA is out of the picture for the team.
NAPA KNOW HOW posted on its Facebook page Thursday with a comment saying: "After thorough consideration, NAPA has made the difficult decision to end its sponsorship arrangement with Michael Waltrip Racing effective December 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."
NAPA's decision was brought on by Michael Waltrip Racing’s attempt to manipulate the outcome of the Sept. 7 race at Richmond International Raceway. Teammate Clint Bowyer spun out, which after further investigation appeared to be on purpose, bringing out the caution flag with just seven laps to go. Fellow teammate Brian Vickers was then ordered to pit, which allowed Joey Logano to gain positions and earn his spot in the Chase, but hindered Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman's chance at a finish that would earn them a spot in the Race to the Sprint Cup Chase. Both drivers were later added, making a first time 13-spot Chase.
The move also brought on the new 100 percent rule by NASCAR chairman Brian France, which orders all competitors to give 100 percent at all times.
The move has cost Michael Waltrip Racing a spot in the Chase for Martin Truex Jr. and a $300,000 fine by NASCAR, but no blow is bigger than losing this twelve year sponsor.
NAPA also addressed the events in a September 11 press release, saying: "The actions taken by Michael Waltrip's Racing team this past weekend leading to the penalties assessed by NASCAR are very concerning. We are disappointed that a partner associated with our organization would make such a significant error in judgment.
“In addition, we have launched our own review to determine the future of our partnership with Michael Waltrip's Racing team.”
Waltrip apologized on Thursday to the people that he's affected the most, the fans.
"To the fans and those who made their voice heard through social media, as the owner, I am responsible for all actions of MWR," he said in a statement. "I sincerely apologize for the role our team played and for the lines NASCAR has ruled were crossed by our actions at Richmond. NASCAR met with the competitors in Chicago and we all know how we are expected to race."
He addressed NAPA's decision yesterday, as well as the success he's had as an owner and a driver with the company over the course of their relationship, which dates back to 2001.
"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.
"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 last a lifetime."
USA Today reports on some fellow NASCAR driver's responses to MWR losing their long-time sponsor:
"That is unfortunate," said Jeff Gordon, who was added to the Chase as the 13th driver following the debacle. "You see a team go through some decisions and choices, and you want a team to get penalized for those types of things no matter what. But you never want to see it go to this level where they lose a sponsor. That is really unfortunate."
"Definitely shocked (given) the long-standing relationship that Michael has had with NAPA," Johnson said. "I don't know what message it sends. Clearly there's been a lot of things discussed over the last couple of weeks, and the sponsor stood up and said, 'Hey, this is where we stand.'
"In this tough economy, we hate to see sponsors leave, and it's going to be very challenging for MWR with the loss of such a major sponsor."
"Hopefully, (NAPA will) still be part of the sport cause it is one of the mainstays (that) has always done the (full season), which is kind of the exception and not the rule these days," said Sprint Cup points leader Matt Kenseth. "The best case would have been for them to stay over there where they have been forever, but hopefully they'll pick up and still be part of the sport."
"It's frustrating," commented Kyle Busch. "There's a lot of race fans that sometimes voice their opinion about there not being enough competitive cars each and every week, but yet they'll send in their comments to sponsors that they shouldn't sponsor that team or that driver because of some of the things that happen on the race track and all of that does is drive sponsors away from our sport. So, it's not a good thing to be doing those sorts of things."
The Race to the Chase must go on though, and the 13 other drivers, including MWR's Clint Bowyer, will all head to Loudon, NH this weekend for the Sylvania 300, where Ryan Newman has won the pole.