By Kelly Crandall – Michael Waltrip Racing was dealt another blow on Thursday as a result of the Richmond scandal when sponsor NAPA Auto Parts announced they would not return to the organization following the 2013 season.
NAPA announced the news on their Facebook page this morning, nearly two weeks after the incident.
“After thorough considerations, NAPA has made the difficult decision to end its sponsorship arrangement with Michael Waltrip Racing effective December 31, 2013,” the statement said. “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 the NASCAR fans and will evaluate our further position in motorsports.”
NAPA has been the primary sponsor for Martin Truex Jr. since he joined the company in 2010. They’ve been a staple in the sport as they’ve appeared on the No. 56 car for every race but have been associated with team owner Michael Waltrip for much longer. The 13-year partnership now comes to a close under difficult circumstances.
“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,” Waltrip said in his own statement. “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.
“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 at Richmond. NASCAR met with the competitors in Chicago and we all know how we are expected to race forward.”
Truex appeared to have made the Chase for MWR and NAPA in Richmond before NASCAR determined that MWR had manipulated the outcome of the race. Teammate Clint Bowyer appeared to have intentionally spun while Brian Vickers along with his team made questionable decisions with suspicious radio communications.
NASCAR penalized the team two days later, indefinitely suspending general manager Ty Norris, fining the company $300,000 and penalizing all three cars 50 owner / driver points. The penalty took Truex out of the Chase and moved Ryan Newman into the final wild card spot. Truex appears to have been faultless and is now 17th in points.
As for MWR, they’ll move forward with their three teams. However Bowyer’s sponsors, 5-Hour ENERGY has said they are also internally reviewing their sponsorship relations. Bowyer is the only MWR car in the 2013 Chase. He’s ninth in points with nine races remaining.
In a statement after NAPA’s announcement MWR said, “Michael Waltrip Racing respects the decision NAPA announced today following the events at Richmond. There is no doubt, the story of Michael Waltrip Racing beings 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.”
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