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NASCAR Cup Series

More Fallout Looming at MWR

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By Kelly Crandall – The fallout from Michael Waltrip Racing’s attempt to get Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase on Saturday night, continues today as one of their major sponsors announce they’ll be reviewing their partnerships with the organization.

Clint Bowyer spun and brought the caution out while Brian Vickers made a surprise pit stop. It resulted in Truex Jr. taking the final wild card spot in the 2013 Chase, at the expense of Ryan Newman who had been leading the race and likely would have raced himself into that position.

Late Monday night NASCAR handed down their penalties to MWR including a $300,00 fine, general manager Ty Norris indefinitely suspended with all three cars losing 50 owner and driver points. The penalty took Truex Jr. out of the Chase and Newman replaces him.

Now sponsors for both all three drivers are speaking out.

On Tuesday 5-hour ENERGY, which is a primary sponsor for Bowyer, wrote on their Twitter page, “We respect NASCAR’s penalties against MWR & are addressing our sponsorship relations internally. We appreciate your understanding & patience.”

Bowyer will compete for this year’s championship as the eighth seed entering Sunday’s GEICO 400 at Chicagoland. He has yet to win a race this season.

Truex, who appears to have been an innocent recipient of the MWR race manipulation, has the only sponsor in NASCAR who appears on his car for every race, something publicly acknowledged and lauded by NASCAR in an age where fully funded cars are becoming rare.

NAPA has been with Truex since he joined MWR in 2010 but have been connected to team owner Michael Waltrip even longer. They were the sponsor on his No. 15 at Dale Earnhardt Inc. when he won the Daytona 500 in 2001 and 2003.

They were also on Waltrip’s car when he started the organization in 2007 and was caught in a cheating scandal. NASCAR found his car to have illegal fuel when he attempted to qualify for the Daytona 500. Both Truex and NAPA recently signed contract extensions.

But said NAPA on their Facebook page, “The actions take 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. The NAPA AUTO PARTS organization is proud of its long-standing NASCAR relationship. We share a passion with our customers for high qualify racing and seek to determine the best course of action for our customers, NASCAR fans, and the NAPA organization.”

Aaron’s, the sponsor of Vickers No. 55 which he’ll race full-time in 2014 in hopes of making the Chase, also wrote on their Facebook page after the penalties were announced, “Aaron’s appreciates your concern about Richmond’s race and your loyalty to NASCAR. We respect the decision NASCAR made today and do not condone any practices that violate NASCAR rules.”

Any sponsor fallout or moves will be seen over time. However, in the past sponsors have pulled back when the drivers associated with them became involved in controversy. Most notably, M&M’s pulled their name from Kyle Busch’s No. 18 for the remainder of the 2011 season after Busch intentionally wrecked Ron Hornaday during a Camping World Truck Series race. They returned for the beginning of the following season and remain Busch’s sponsor, but it sent a clear message.

Norris not only spots but handles sponsors relations for MWR. In statement on behalf of the company, Waltrip revealed that it was Norris who made the split second decision in order to help Truex get into the Chase. His actions carry far-reaching consequences for MWR and whether their sponsors remain for the future.

On the entry list for this weekend’s event, Aaron’s and NAPA appear as primary sponsors for Vickers and Truex. However, Peak Antifreeze will adorn the No. 15 for Bowyer in one of their scheduled sponsored races.



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