CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — The Associated Press has learned that Michael Waltrip Racing will run only two full-time cars next season because of the loss of sponsor NAPA.
Team owners Michael Waltrip and Rob Kauffman on Monday began telling employees of their decision. Those affected were told they are free to begin looking for a new job immediately.
Two employees spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because MWR had not publicly announced its decision. The team owners had a Monday afternoon meeting scheduled to go over organizational changes, which will include running the car currently driven by Martin Truex Jr. on a partial schedule.
Truex had been previously told he is free to look for another ride, and 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 morning were interrupted when driver Brian Vickers informed the owners a blood clot had been discovered in his right calf. The clot was found after a Monday examination and 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 field.
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 ultimately 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 ultimately ruled that the only thing it could prove was that Norris intentionally called Vickers down pit road in the closing laps to manipulate 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."