Created on Monday, 14 October 2013 Written by JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Michael Waltrip Racing will run only two full-time cars next season because of the loss of sponsor NAPA, part of the fallout from its attempts to manipulate a race to get Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase.
Truex, crew chief Chad Johnston and 15 percent of the workforce were notified Monday they are free to negotiate with other teams.
The car Truex drives will be repurposed into a research and development team next season. It will run a partial schedule beginning with the Daytona 500 with team co-owner Michael Waltrip behind the wheel. It does not appear the team will use Truex's No. 56 on the car next season.
"Today was about doing what we had to do not what we wanted to do," team co-owner Rob Kauffman said. "It was important to let those whose jobs were affected know as early as possible, and a majority of those will remain with MWR through the end of the season."
Truex has been talking to Furniture Row Racing about the seat being vacated by Kurt Busch.
The meetings with Kauffman and Waltrip and their employees Monday were interrupted when driver Brian Vickers informed the owners that a blood clot had been found in his right calf. He was placed on blood-thinning medication that will prevent him from finishing the season in the No. 55 Toyota.
The team had previously planned to use co-owner Waltrip in this week's race at Talladega, and said it will decide later on its driver for the remaining four races.
Vickers was scheduled to participate in a Monday test at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but MWR had Brett Moffitt ready to drive.
It's been one hit after another since the Sept. 7 race at Richmond, where MWR was found to have manipulated the finish in an attempt to get Truex into the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
It began when Clint Bowyer deliberately spun to bring out a caution, setting in motion a chain of events that led to a widespread NASCAR investigation. NASCAR fined MWR $300,000, suspended general manager Ty Norris indefinitely and replaced Truex in the Chase field with Ryan Newman, who likely would have won the race and earned a spot in the Chase before Bowyer's spin.
In punishing MWR, NASCAR ruled that the only thing it could prove was that Norris intentionally called Vickers down pit road in the closing laps to adjust the finish.
NAPA, a longtime partner of Waltrip's, then said it was pulling its multimillion-dollar sponsorship of Truex's team with two years remaining on its contract because it "believes in fair play and does not condone actions such as those that led to the penalties assessed by NASCAR."
As part of the reorganizational changes announced Monday, MWR said executive vice president of competition Scott Miller will continue as crew chief of the No. 55 team into the 2014 season. He'd been interim crew chief since Rodney Childers was taken off the pit stand in August when he said he was moving to Stewart-Haas Racing next season.
"Our goals for the reorganization were twofold — firstly to improve the competitiveness of our race teams and, secondly, maintain a stable organizational structure," Kauffman said. "The team's focus has been to find that last 1 percent needed to move from Chase participant to Cup champion. This realignment will get us closer to that last 1 percent."