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News still upstaging Chase




Steve Mickey

Steve Mickey

Michael Waltrip Racing once again stole the headlines away from NASCAR and its Chase this week when longtime sponsor NAPA announced it would not be renewing its contract with MWR’s Martin Truex Jr.

NAPA’s contract with Waltrip was one of the best sponsorship deals in all of Sprint Cup racing and was reported to be in the neighborhood of $18 million a year . e

Th NAPA deal basically funded the team through the entire schedule. NAPA had been with Waltrip since his days of driving at Dale Earnhardt Inc., and made the move with him when he started his own operation that now fields three teams.

The timing of NAPA’s departure could not be worse for both MWR and Truex Jr., as most of the corporations willing to pay the big bucks to see their names on the hood of a Sprint Cup car have already made plans for next season. MWR does field two other teams in the sport and both are said to be fully funded for the 2014 season, with 5 Hour Energy sponsoring Clint Bowyer and Aaron’s sponsoring Brian Vickers.

MWR’s structure is set up to be a three-team operation with full manufacturer backing for all three teams coming from Toyota. The result of the fallout from the events of the Richmond race where NASCAR determined that MWR manipulate the outcome of the race may not only force MWR to field only two teams, buts may cost the organization the services of one of the better talents in the sport in Truex Jr.

The fallout from NAPA’s departure from MWR has now made Truex Jr. one the hottest free agents in the sport, as Waltrip has already told his driver that he would not stand in his way if a better offer came. The two together have built a team that is capable of winning anytime the green flag waves and is always in the hunt for one of the Chase spots.

Truex Jr. now finds himself on the open market, but the problem is that the number of quality rides that will be available for next season is as limited as it has been in several seasons.

Kevin Harvick is moving to Stewart-Haas Racing next season and will be replaced by Austin Dillon at Richard Childress Racing. He will be joined at RCR by Ryan Newman who will be making the move from SHR. Joining Harvick at Stewart-Haas next season will be Kurt Busch, who is leaving Furniture Row Racing.

As you can see, the movement of drivers in the sport resembles dominos falling. All of the above driver moves now leaves the ride at Furniture Row Racing as the premier seat to be open at this time. It is a one-car team, but this season Kurt Busch put that one car in the Chase and has consistently run up front, making it a very attractive ride for next season.

Rumors this past weekend at New Hampshire had Truex Jr. at the top of the list of Furniture Row owner Barney Visser’s choice of drivers for next season. Also making the rounds in the rumor mill, known as the “Silly Season” in the Sprint Cup garage, was that NAPA may be making the move with Truex Jr. In an interview during the weekend, the driver did say he had a great relationship with his sponsor and that NAPA was happy with the way he had represented the company during their tenure together.

Truex Jr. knows that his options are going to be very limited for next year, so expect him to put something together as quickly as possible. He also knows that every team in the sport will be making their pitch to NAPA executives for that firm’s sponsorship dollars for next season. His best option could be getting NAPA and Visser together for next season. There is no doubt that the sponsorship will not carry the same hefty price tag that MWR received.

CHASE NOTES: Matt Kenseth’s win at New Hampshire was his seventh of the season and came during his 50oth series start. He also becomes the third driver to win the opening two races of the Chase. Greg Biffle did it in 2008 and Tony Stewart accomplished the feat in 2011 on his way to the title.

Race Preview

Event: AAA 400

Track: Dover International Speedway (1.0 mile oval with 240 degrees of banking in the turns)

Date: Sept. 29, 2:15 pm

TV: ESPN

Radio: MRN

Defending Champion: Brad Keselowski


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