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Truex Victim Of Scandal Fallout

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 15 2013

Martin Truex Jr. is looking for a ride for next season. It was announced Monday that Michael Waltrip Racing was reorganizing. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Martin Truex Jr. is not part of the “reorganization” announced by Michael Waltrip Racing for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, as the team continues to deal with the fallout from a cheating scandal preceding the current Chase for the Championship.

MWR announced Monday it will downsize from three to two fulltime Cup teams in 2014, with its third entry to run a limited schedule.

Truex, driver of the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, and crew chief Chad Johnston, were notified they are “free to negotiate with other teams,” according to a news release. Scott Miller, the team’s executive vice president of competition, will continue as crew chief of the No. 55 team.

MWR will field the No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota for Brian Vickers and the No. 15 5-hour ENERGY/PEAK Toyota for Clint Bowyer next season. Additionally, MWR will add to its research and development efforts by running a third car in selected races, including team co-owner Waltrip in the 2014 Daytona 500.

“Our goals for the reorganization were two-fold – to improve the competitiveness of our race teams and maintain a stable organizational structure,” MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman said. “The team’s focus has been to find that last one percent needed to move from Chase participant to Cup champion. This realignment will get us closer to that last one percent.”

Bowyer and Truex earned MWR its first Chase berths in 2012, when Bowyer finished second to Brad Keselowski of Penske Racing and Truex placed 11th.

The reorganization will enable MWR to retain more than 85 percent of its current workforce based in Cornelius, N.C. Those whose positions were affected by the moves were notified Monday morning. “(Reorganization) was about doing what we had to do, not what we wanted to do,” 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.”

MWR has been in-flux since being penalized by NASCAR for attempting to manipulate the finish of the 26-race “regular-season” finale at Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 7 in order to get Truex a spot in the 10-race Chase.

The scrutiny began when a late-race spin by Bowyer brought out a caution flag. Bowyer has maintained the spin was not deliberate, and NASCAR could not prove that it was. But a subsequent investigation prompted the sanctioning body to bump Truex from the Chase, fine MWR $300,000 and suspend team general manager Ty Norris indefinitely. In an unprecedented move, four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon of Hendrick Motorsports was added to the Chase field as its 13th driver.

High-profile sponsor NAPA Auto Parts, a marketing partner of Waltrip’s dating to his first Daytona 500 victory with Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2001,later announced it was pulling its sponsorship from Truex’s team at the end of this season.

Vickers, meanwhile, will not available to race for the remainder of this season due to health issues. Dr. William Downey placed Vickers on blood-thinning medication after a Monday morning examination on his right leg discovered a small blood clot in his calf region. Vickers said his physicians are confident he will be able to resume activity before the 2014 Cup season begins.

Waltrip, a two-time Daytona 500 winner, will drive the No. 55 Camry at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. A replacement driver for the remaining events will be named later.

“Rob and I deeply appreciate everyone who has helped build MWR into a race-winning team and we are dedicated to continuing our pursuit of excellence on-and-off the track,” Waltrip said in the release. “We have very strong support from Toyota, Toyota Racing Development, 5-hour ENERGY, PEAK, Aaron’s, AAA Mid-Atlantic and other partners who enable us to compete at the highest level. We are confident that with two teams and a very active test team, our competiveness will take a step forward. We will also continue to do a great job for our partners off the track, which has always been a cultural staple for our organization.”

Halfway through the Chase, Bowyer is eighth in the standings, 63 points behind leader and 2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing.

Meanwhile, Cup superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. of Hendrick Motorsports said he believed the Bowyer incident was purely a “Richmond thing.”

“I think it’s just a product of the Chase and how we’re all forced to make unique decisions at Richmond to get in,” Earnhardt said during a recent promotional tour on behalf of Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, site of the AAA Texas 500 on Nov. 3. “I’m not sure we’ll all be watching closely next year and if the opportunity arises, human nature takes control and they might make the wrong decision again. Hopefully we don’t have to see that again.”

Earnhardt added he understood NASCAR’s investigation given the amount of media scrutiny directed toward Bowyer and Truex, the Nationwide Series champion in 2004-05.

“I felt really bad for Truex not being in the Chase, because he was really innocent to everything that was going on,” Junior said. “At the same time I feel bad for Clint Bowyer because he was put in that position…someone asked him to do what he did. I know the guy he is and I know that didn’t sit well with him to have to go through that. I can’t imagine someone saying, ‘Hey man, we need you to bring out a yellow.’ I can’t imagine having to do that. That would be the hardest thing to do.

“There was so many things that happened during that whole thing that some things made sense, some things didn’t make sense. They make the rules and they had a lot of meetings with (NASCAR chairman/CEO) Brian France and the drivers and crew chiefs and (NASCAR president) Mike Helton and all those guys talking about restart rules, talking about all the things that happened at Richmond. And they made it real clear to us that we needed to focus on driving our cars and anything derogatory or anything we didn’t agree with – airing it publicly wasn’t hurting Brian France, wasn’t hurting Mike Helton. It was hurting ourselves.

“I know you want to help your teammates all you can and you want your teammates to all make the Chase. In the heat of the moment guys make decisions they thought they needed to make and it really kind of blew up in their faces.”

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 15 2013
One Comment

One Comment »

  • NASCAR No Credibility says:

    Brian France and Mike Helton have been killing NASCAR by the cuts of a thousand razor blades and they do not even realize it.

    MWR did not do anything that Rick Hednrick Motorsports or Richard Childress Racing have not done over the years. What about the bogus NASCAR caution flags that alter the outcome of races? Yes even the bogus caution flags during this years chase.

    I hope NASCAR is happy with themselves. They have cost themselves a full time team and put 15% of MWR employees in the unemployment line.

    If NASCAR really had a problem with this they would have been far better served to have handled this behind closed doors setting the bar going forward. NASCAR has completely mishandled this from the start.

    Brian France and Mike Helton will forever be known as the two men who killed the goose that laid the golden egg.

    As for NAPA I will never again do business with them for being such cowards. The people who did all the complaining were all Hendrick motorsports fans and 99% of them have never and will never set into a NAPA store.

    NAPA = COWARD.

    NASCAR has created all of this mess themselves by allowing all these rich huge multicar teams. What are teams supposed to do? They are supposed to help their team mates.

    Look at what Hendrick Motorsports was doing for the last four races before the chase, they knew Jimmy Johnson was locked into the chase so they had him lay back to allow both Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. to collect as many points as they could because neither one was in the chase yet. Gordon ended up not making it. Funny how once the chase started Jimmy Johnson went from being a mid pack runner to running up in the top 5 every week again.

    Then NASCAR creates the bogus 13th spot in the chase for Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon.

    So in the end Truex was punished for something he had nothing to do with and NAPA left because of a bunch of fans who do not even know where a NAPA store is in their town complaining.

    Also in the end Hendrick Motorsports and Jeff Gordon were rewarded for failing to make the chase on their own. I have zero respect for Jeff Gordon or Rick Hendrick a convicted felon who bought and paid for a pardon from Bill Clinton.