The fallout from the incident at Richmond International Raceway has grown, with NAPA Auto Parts announcing that it will part with Michael Waltrip Racing when the NASCAR season ends.
The decision stems from MWR’s attempt to manipulate a race in an effort to get Martin Truex Jr., whose primary sponsor is NAPA, into NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. MWR and NAPA were in the first year of a three-year contract extension reportedly worth $16 million a year.
“NAPA believes in fair play and does not condone actions such as those that led to the penalties assessed by NASCAR,” NAPA said in a statement on Facebook that was particularly harsh by PR standards. “We remain supportive of the millions of NASCAR fans and will evaluate our future position in motorsports.”
Truex’s car was bounced from the Chase after NASCAR found that MWR had rigged the finish of the Geico 400 by having Brian Vickers slow down, then take a pit stop. Teammate Clint Bowyer also spun out, helping Truex qualify for the final wild card. MWR was slapped with a $300,000 fine and Bowyer, Truex and Vickers were docked 50 points. The Chase field was expanded to 13 drivers to include Jeff Gordon.
“NAPA has been with me from winning two Daytona 500s, to missing races with a new start-up team, and back to victory lane again,” Waltrip said in a statement. “The relationship grew far past that of just a sponsor, but more of a partner and a friend. We will not be racing a NAPA car in 2014, but I have friendships that will last a lifetime.
“To the fans and those who made their voice heard through social media, as the owner, I am responsible for all actions of MWR. I sincerely apologize for the role our team played and for the lines NASCAR has ruled were crossed by our actions at Richmond. NASCAR met with the competitors in Chicago and we all know how we are expected to race forward.”