Driver Clint Bowyer and team co-owner Rob Kauffman seem to agree on two things: conditions at Michael Waltrip Racing won’t allow the team to continue in its current form and it was no place for Bowyer.
On Wednesday, MWR announced it would not run as a full-time team in 2016 and that it was releasing Bowyer after this season.
“Michael Waltrip Racing wouldn’t have existed through today without substantial and continued financial support from me,” said Kauffman, who bought a share of the financially struggling team in 2007. “You can’t have a top-10 budget and top-10 resources and not be in the top-10 for a sustained period of time. From a business standpoint, that didn’t make sense any longer.
“It’s a performance-related business. It’s all about performance. It’s a great sport but a very difficult business model. From a business decision, it just made sense to not go forward with that organization, which is not commercially viable.”
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Michael Waltrip Racing wouldn’t have existed through today without substantial and continued financial support from me.
Bowyer, who drives MWR’s No. 15 Toyota, said he understood.
“Rob provided us all of that and invested a lot in this sport,” Bowyer said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway before practice for Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race. “It’s a business decision to move forward on his end. Our futures just don’t align any more.”
Bowyer said he’s open to all options in finding a new team. As of now, there are no openings in any of the top teams’ rosters.
“The future is uncertain for me right now,” said Bowyer, who is barely inside the Chase cut line (16th) and hasn’t won since Charlotte’s 2012 fall race. “All systems are go. I’m confident in the sport. … And I see no reason why somebody that works hard and wants it like I do in this sport can’t have a job for as long as they want.”
In July, Kauffman announced he was buying a stake in Chip Ganassi Racing, a move that immediately raised doubts about MWR’s future.
“(Kauffman) made a business decision to move forward, and that direction, as we all know, is (with) the Ganassi organization,” Bowyer said. “It’s a mutual agreed upon thing and it was not something that was ugly.”
There are no spots currently open in NASCAR’s top teams.
MWR went through turbulent times in 2013, when Bowyer played a role in a scandal at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, where the team was found to have manipulated the outcome of the race to help then-MWR driver Martin Truex Jr. gain a position in the Chase.
As a result, Truex lost his spot in the Chase and the team was fined $300,000 by NASCAR.
“Certainly that was a pretty heavy body blow to our organization,” Kauffman said. “It caused a big restructuring. 2014 was at some level a large reset year for everybody, also (financially).”
Bowyer said he didn’t think the scandal had an effect on what appears to be the demise of MWR, which shrunk to a two-team organization in 2014.
0 Victories by MWR drivers in 2014 and ’15
“I don’t think it does at all and this is why,” said Bowyer. “Since then, Rob and the management has restructured, reorganized and we’re a two-car team. We’re not a three-car team, we’re a two-car team, which, by the way, was fully funded on my car moving forward. We were setup and moving forward to a two-car organization. It wasn’t like we were forced in a weird situation and that’s my honest, legit answer to that.”