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‘Silly season’ is ending




 

 

The 2013 Sprint Cup season will long be remembered as one that never did lack drama as it seemed the sport kept itself in the headlines of the sports pages. NASCAR would just as soon not had to read some of those headlines as the sport wasn’t always putting its best foot forward when it came to the public perception.

The season no sooner got underway when the series had its own version of the Hatfields and McCoys, when Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin had their well-publicized feud take place on the track resulting in Hamlin being injured to the point that he missed several races. Just when you thought that NASCAR had moved away from the beating it took from that incident, it had to face all of the questions surrounding the September Richmond race that finalized the field that would get to move into the Chase.

Michael Waltrip Racing’s attempt to alter the outcome of the Richmond race turned into a nightmare for the sport and forced the sanctioning body to make some very difficult decisions. The actions of that race resulted in sanctions handed down by NASCAR that removed MWR’s Martin Truex Jr. from the Chase field and added Stewart-Haas Racing’s Ryan Newman.

NASCAR also had to deal with Penske Racing’s Joey Logano team that was accused of making a deal during the later stages of the race that enabled Logano to move ahead of Jeff Gordon in the points for the final spot in the Chase. A few days after the race, Gordon was added as the 13th team to the Chase while Logano was allowed to retain his spot.

The fallout continues for the sport and especially MWR as it has lost one of the best sponsorships in the series when NAPA announced that it would not be coming back as Truex’s sponsor in 2014. MWR had steadily climbed its way up the ranks over the last couple of years where it was a threat to win on any race day and was putting teams in the Chase. Now all of that is in jeopardy and maybe more important is the credibility of the organization.

MWR’s majority owner Rob Kauffman announced last week that he is close to announcing how the organization will be structured for the 2014 season. His drivers Clint Bowyer has sponsorship from 5-hour Energy for next season and teammate Brian Vickers will have longtime MWR sponsor Aaron’s as his sponsor. The unanswered question at this point is if there will be a third team and who will be the sponsor and driver of that team.

The one constant through all of the trials that MWR has been going through is the backing it gets from Toyota. The manufacturer has thrown its support behind Joe Gibbs Racing and MWR with great results and would love to keep that going next season.

Sponsorship is definitely the key to the third team for MWR, but what may be just as important is the driver in that car. This is where another silly season move may take place. Truex was given permission to shop his services around and it could be that besides a new sponsor that the team would be better off starting fresh with a new driver.

There are several veteran drivers looking for a ride next season but taking over this seat may be more about integrity than just driving skill. If that is the case, MWR would have to look no further than Jeff Burton. Burton presently drives for Richard Childress Racing but will be leaving at season’s end.

Burton is a 20-year race-winning veteran in the sport who is well respected by everyone in the sport for standing up for what he feels is right and has never backed down from giving his opinion to NASCAR. He would bring instant credibility to MWR and, maybe more importantly, would be an easy sell to a would-be sponsor. He could instantly become the face of that organization which would go a long way in restoring integrity to Michael Waltrip Racing.

Race Preview

Event : Camping World RV Sales 500

Track: Talladega Superspeedway (2.66-mile tri-oval, 330 of banking in the turns)

Date: Oct. 20, 2 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Radio: MRN

Defending Champion: Matt Kenseth


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