Saturday night saw a series of events in the NASCAR race at Richmond that focused on Michael Waltrip Racing influencing the outcome of the race and resulted in MWR driver Martin Truex's removal from the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Now MWR's sponsors are talking and guess what? They're super pissed.
NAPA Auto Parts have sponsored Michael Waltrip for ages, since his days when he was driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc in 2001. They've stuck by him when he didn't win and when he started Michael Waltrip Racing. Earlier this year they got back into Victory Lane with Martin Truex, Jr and they love Michael Waltrip for all of the ads that he does for them.
But the actions of Michael Waltrip Racing over the weekend has not endeared them anymore to NAPA:
USA Today's Nate Ryan sums up just why this is so significant for NAPA's approximately $16 million annual sponsorship budget:
NAPA also is significant because it's one of the last full-season sponsors left in Sprint Cup. #nascar values that continuity and wants more— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) September 11, 2013
The sponsor of the 55 car, 5 Hour Energy, is also upset over their role in the debacle, but they aren't commenting to the extent that NAPA is:
We respect NASCAR's penalties against MWR & are addressing our sponsorship relations internally. We appreciate your understanding & patience— 5-hour ENERGY® (@5hourenergy) September 10, 2013
When Crashgate happened in F1 with the Renault Team and Nelson Piquet, Jr., sponsor ING left the team immediately because of the PR shit storm. It wasn't Piquet's decision, but what happened within the team was enough to send them running.
We have much the same situation here. Truex and Bowyer weren't really the guilty parties here (even though Bowyer did spin, which NASCAR says they can't prove was on purpose...), the teams were. The sponsors don't want to punish the drivers but do need to address their relationships with teams that don't act in accordance with their own corporate values.
It might be a case where the sponsors want to continue their relationship with the drivers (Bowyer brought 5 Hour Energy to Michael Waltrip Racing) but might not want to be with the teams. There is still a lot to develop and we'll know the full extent of the sponsor fallout in the coming days and weeks before we see if there are any changes.
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