Brett Poirier · Tuesday September 24, 2013
Martin Truex Jr.’s life was turned upside down by Clint Bowyer’s intentional spin at Richmond. Truex was booted from the Chase and learned a short time later that his 36-race primary sponsor was leaving the organization, prompting owner Michael Waltrip to tell his longest-tenured driver that he had permission to look around the garage.
Now, the one Michael Waltrip Racing driver who didn’t attempt to manipulate the outcome of the last regular season race is watching his world crash down around him. A month ago, he was on the verge of his second straight playoff appearance, he had one of the most reliable sponsors in the garage backing him and was racing for one of the sport’s up-and-coming teams. Fast forward and Truex is a part of silly season rumors and has no idea what his future holds.
Meanwhile, Bowyer’s lone penalty — a 50-point deduction — before the playoff points were set was about as pointless as Kasey Kahne’s ESPN interview on Sunday. Can you hear me Kasey?
For everyone that thought Bowyer got away scot-free with fixing Richmond, not so fast. Bowyer’s penalty might still be coming. Mmmmmhahahahah! That was my evil laugh for effect.
Bowyer’s primary sponsor 5-Hour Energy has been non-committal about sticking with MWR, and it sure didn’t seem like a trip to Loudon last weekend convinced company president Scott Henderson to stay. Henderson was quoted as saying something you say to your girlfriend who thinks you’re ready for marriage.
“We’ll see how this year plays out.” Henderson added one more quote before walking off saying, “There’s a lot of talk about integrity,” he said. “When the guy who’s in charge can say, ‘I can do whatever I want and I’m going to do it and I just did,’ I wonder about integrity. I want to make sure we can win in this sport, OK?”
Henderson seemed to be referring to NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and his decision to add a 13th driver, Jeff Gordon, to the Chase field. 5-Hour Energy’s reluctance to stay in the sport stems from the actions NASCAR took to clean up the mess the 5-Hour Energy car started. Now it may cost Bowyer a multi-million dollar sponsorship deal at the end of the season.
If that isn’t ironic, I don’t know what is.
MWR, the organization that surprised just about everyone last year by qualifying two cars for the Chase and placing runner-up in the championship, is reeling. Only one of its three primary sponsors for next season has committed to the team. The organization was just levied a $300,000 fine and its one driver in the Chase, Bowyer, has already been knocked out of contention. He’s unlikely to win a race this season — he’ll have a shot at Martinsville and Talladega — and he’s gone from being one of the most marketable personalities in the garage to maybe the most unmarketable with one sharp left-hand turn of the steering wheel.
Bowyer didn’t lose most of his credibility in The Spin, but rather in the week following when he insisted the spin was accidental — even though a blind man could see that it wasn’t — and continued lying through his teeth to anyone with a camera. At the same time, he told the media that he called Ryan Newman to apologize and was “sick to his stomach” about the ending of the Richmond race. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard a driver get sick over a flat tire he had no control over.
MWR didn’t handle the situation any better. The organization came off less apologetic, and more “I’m sorry we got caught.” Michael Waltrip didn’t issue an apology until NAPA decided it no longer wanted to be associated with cheaters. Instead of being proactive about the situation, Waltrip was the kid who hid next to the couch in plain sight during hide-and-seek, and said, “Maybe they won’t see me.”
If MWR does have to fill two primary sponsorship holes for next season, they are in serious trouble. What company president in his right mind is going to dish millions to an organization with the credibility of Stephen Glass in the middle of its downfall? For those of you who thought the MWR penalties weren’t severe enough have no worries because the repercussions are still being felt and might crumble what Waltrip and Robert Kauffman worked so hard to build.
Brian Vickers couldn’t wait for another chance full-time with a competitive organization, but by the time he starts the 2014 season, he might be the only one left the way things are going.
Truex is in the eye of the storm Bowyer created, with help from MWR general manager Ty Norris, of course. Norris was suspended indefinitely, but don’t worry, Bowyer is going get his. He’s had to deal with the guilt of ripping Truex from the Chase and he just watched his teammate lose his sponsor, and possibly his ride for next year. Now, he knows the same could happen to him. Henderson said his decision wouldn’t come until after the season, which means Bowyer will be on edge until then. Even if 5-Hour Energy does return, it’s going to be a rough eight weeks for Bowyer.
Second in points last season and might not have a sponsor or the same ride heading into next season.
That would be one hell of a spin.
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