Tuesday saw confusion run wild when Turner Motorsports sent out two separate releases, going from a team with a realistic chance at winning both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series championships to one that appears to be on the verge of collapse in the process.
In its first release the company sent out a statement in reference to warning employees about “potential downsizing as the team continues to work with potential marketing partners for their Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series teams.” The announcement coincides with reports Frontstretch has received that Dollar General will be moving to a joint Nationwide effort with Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports next season with a high profile driver at the helm.
After the statement, Frontstretch spoke with a Turner Motorsports employee who confirmed the potential layoffs.
“Yesterday, we all had to go in and sign a piece of paper saying that we understood Turner would lay off 33% of their workforce.”
The employee also reported their 401K program had been discontinued and that their paychecks don’t list the number of hours put in.
“They have you work 50 hours a week, then 30 hours the next and they’re not paying overtime as it should be.”
And if that wasn’t enough, Reed Sorenson, who currently sits third in the Nationwide Series standings, just 49 points behind the leader with five races remaining, has been released from his No. 32 Chevrolet effective immediately. In his place, Brian Vickers will wheel the car, presumably in an effort to keep his Nationwide eligibility alive as a contingency plan should Red Bull Racing fail to find investors to keep the team afloat.
“I’m not really sure what’s going on,” Sorenson told NASCAR.com’s David Caraviello Tuesday (http://nationwide.nascar.com/nationwide-series/news/111004/rsorenson-fired-bvickers-turner-motorsports/index.html ). “It’s not good, though.”
According to our sources, Sorenson hasn’t been paid for his efforts so far this season, and an email to Turner Motorsports requesting comment wasn’t returned as of press time.
Sorenson found himself associated with the team at the end of the 2010 season when Turner purchased Braun Racing, the team he had scored 21 top 10s with in 28 starts that season. Along with the purchase came a promise to be a hands-on owner involved in day-to-day operations of the team.
“Lead by example is my philosophy. If I show up and I’m clean-shaven and I’m worried about this and we’re on top of things, my people know they have to follow that,” Turner said. “We keep our bar set pretty high. I’m a firm believer not to ask them to do anything that I can’t or will not do.”
“I didn’t just show up with a checkbook. I have no intention of being that kind of owner. We’re here to work, enjoy, and learn and earn everyone’s respect.”
Sure, an absentee owner is something Turner promised he wouldn’t be, but the team employee Frontstretch spoke with tells the story differently.
“Turner was coming in, made the acquisition … promised quarterly reviews, all this stuff. I have seen Turner since that day. [I’ve] seen him blow by three times; [he] sneaks into his offices and then leaves. We haven’t talked to him, haven’t seen him–not one performance review since he bought this company out.”
Founded in 1999 as a grass roots operation to field legends cars for his children, Steve Turner brought the team to the Camping World Truck Series in 2010 with two trucks fielded by James Buescher and Ricky Carmichael, who was fresh off of his rookie season with Kevin Harvick, Inc. After scoring a combined 19 top-10 finishes in 47 starts, Buescher and Carmichael finished 11th and 13th, respectively in the standings.
But before his entrance into the upper echelons of NASCAR, Turner had plenty going on behind the scenes. In early November, 2009, he sold his company Xxtreme Group, LLC–a collective Houston, TX-based trust that overlooked Xxtreme Pipe Services, LLC, Xxtreme Pipe Storage, LLC, Xxtreme Tubular Processors, LLC and Wolf Pack Rentals, LLC–to RedHawk Energy Corporation for a cool $66 million. And just eight days later, Turner, who boasted a nearly 35-year career in the oil field, was named the President and Chief Operating Officer of RedHawk as a result of that sale.
Fast forward to 2010 when the company sold off its Texas-based operations for $66 million, the same amount Turner had been paid just a year earlier. As a result, former CEO and founder G. Darcy Klug resumed his position at Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, presumably ending Turner’s time with the company.
Which brings it full circle to 2011 with a major sponsor leaving at the end of the season, a new driver behind the wheel Saturday and a lot of uncertainty. One thing is for certain, though–fans have expressed their displeasure with Sorenson’s firing by taking to Facebook and Twitter. Early Tuesady evening, half a dozen negative comments were removed from a photo on their Facebook profile (http://www.facebook.com/TurnerMotorsports). But late last night, several more comments had been left.
“What’s frustrating about this move is that when Vickers fell ill and had to miss the rest of the season last year, who was there to replace him in both Cup AND Nationwide? Sorenson. And he did a great fill in job in both series … You could have waited five races before making this decision.”
“Wow! I didn’t like the Reed dismissal, but I was still supportive and they still deleted my comments. Pretty sad!”
“Turner is just like Ginn Motorsports. After a year they will be bankrupt.”
With so many more questions than answers at this point, the driver who’s scored 18 top 10s in 29 starts has no idea which team–if any–he’ll spend the remaining five races this season with.
_(Editor’s Note: For more information on Sorenson’s release and the goings-on at Turner Motorsports, check out Full Throttle below and Bryan Davis Keith’s Middle-Class Meltdown: Sorenson, Turner Latest Victims Of Growing NASCAR Epidemic (https://frontstretch.com/bkeith/35805/). We’ll have all of the latest breaking news as it comes out at Frontstretch.com and on Twitter–@thefrontstretch and @NASCARBowles.)_
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