ThatsRacin

Michael Waltrip Racing releases Clint Bowyer, won’t field full-time team in 2016

Clint Bowyer will be a top free agent after the 2015 NASCAR season ends.
Clint Bowyer will be a top free agent after the 2015 NASCAR season ends. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Michael Waltrip Racing is releasing driver Clint Bowyer after this NASCAR Sprint Cup season and won’t field a full-time team in 2016, the team announced Wednesday.

The announcement comes three weeks after co-owner Rob Kauffman said he was buying a stake in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, a move that cast a cloud over the future of MWR.

“MWR will race hard and compete for the remainder of the 2015 season,” Kauffman said in a statement. “This decision was made after weighing several different options and scenarios.

“I felt it was important to make an announcement as soon as we had clarity, so that is what we are doing.”

MWR was struggling financially when Kauffman bought a share of the team in 2007. His financial acumen helped turn MWR around – for a while, at least. Kauffman likely will focus most of his energy at Ganassi now.

Bowyer now is free to negotiate with other Cup teams and no doubt will be a top free agent during the offseason. He has been with MWR since 2012 and is 15th in this season’s points standings.

I felt it was important to make an announcement as soon as we had clarity, so that is what we are doing.

Rob Kauffman

“I want to thank Michael, Rob and everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing that made these past four years special,” Bowyer said. “After extensive discussions with Rob and MWR, we came to the point that we mutually agreed our paths in the future just didn’t align, but I think we all agreed on the next steps in a very professional manner. I am looking forward to what future opportunities may come, but for now we have a championship to pursue in 2015.”

It’s not clear what the future holds for the MWR’s other car, the No. 55 Toyota, which is bring driven by David Ragan. Brian Vickers started the season in the No. 55, but he is missing the rest of the season while taking blood thinners to treat blood clots.

Clint Bowyer will be a top NASCAR free agent.

It’s also uncertain of where this leaves Waltrip.

“My family has been a part of NASCAR for almost five decades and I plan on being a part of it for years to come,” Waltrip said. “I would not have had the opportunity to start this journey without so many great partners, sponsors and employees and I want to thank each of them for making Michael Waltrip Racing a reality.”

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