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Thomas Bowles · Tuesday October 15, 2013
The financial consequences of “Spingate,” from Richmond have taken their toll on the short-term future of Michael Waltrip Racing. Monday, team co-owners Rob Kauffman and Michael Waltrip announced they’ll scale back from three full-time cars to two come 2014. A third car, in a research and development role will only be run on a limited schedule, pending sponsorship as the organization loses full-time backer NAPA for Martin Truex, Jr. and the soon-to-be-defunct No. 56 team following the season.
Truex, along with crew chief Chad Johnston were told they can look elsewhere for employment as the team plans to cut its roster of 265 employees by 15 percent. Most of them will come from Truex’s car, a painful split considering the team has won twice in the last two seasons and came within a whisker of making two straight postseason appearances.
“This is never something you like to do having to reorganize the company,” Kauffman said in an interview with USA Today’s Nate Ryan. Jenna Fryer tweeted an additional quote, one expressing even more disappointment after her own conversation with the financier. “We made a mistake,” he claimed, “we paid a heavy price, and we are adjusting to a new reality.”
Still, both men tried to limit the doom and gloom. Co-owner Waltrip, in particular looked on the bright side, claiming a smaller, more streamlined operation could lead to better chemistry overall while giving creative engineers less hoops to jump through across the board.
“I think it’s a situation where we’re going to be better going from three cars to two,” he claimed. “We feel it’s going to enable us to get ideas from paper, to steel, to the racetrack sooner.”
The new look team will also give Waltrip a chance to potentially run more events. He’ll be in the third car for next year’s Daytona 500 and a handful of 2014 races. Meanwhile, suspended former Vice President Ty Norris has been reassigned within the company, as the Executive Director of Business Development in a role that takes him away from at-track competition. While the organization will miss his spotting ability, a long history of creating strong financial partnerships means he’ll be in good position to help move the company forward in the coming years.
“One of the essential elements we looked at in the plan,” added Kauffman, “Was to try to make the best of the situation and reorganize in such a way that we could come out not just status quo, but potentially stronger and even more competitive. It’s certainly been demonstrated you can be competitive [with two teams].”
The future for Truex, along with his former sponsor remains unclear. Furniture Row Racing has talked extensively with the driver, about next season but hasn’t made a final decision on their replacement for Kurt Busch. NAPA has been rumored to stick with Truex, but there’s no confirmation as to whether they’ll appear on a car in 2014 or disappear completely. Richard Childress Racing, with possible expansion to four cars also remains in the running for Truex’s services.
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