Michael Waltrip Racing set for final NASCAR race
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) Clint Bowyer wanted the epilogue on Michael Waltrip Racing to focus more on the good times and good people than the missteps that affected the organization since its start.
Jet fuel scandal. Race manipulation. Chase probation.
All were part of the fabric of the MWR story.
MWR's rocky nine full years in operation ends Sunday when the organization folds, leaving a checkered past behind as the key players move on from a disheartening final season.
''It's a sad weekend because there was a lot of effort on a lot of people's parts,'' Bowyer said Saturday.
Team co-owner Rob Kauffman has invested in Chip Ganassi Racing beginning next season. Bowyer moves on to a one-year stint at HScott Motorsports before he replaces Tony Stewart in 2017. David Ragan needs a ride. Brian Vickers' career is on hiatus because of blood clots. Waltrip also has a broadcasting career.
''Sunday it'll be hard, but I'll choose to smile,'' Waltrip tweeted. ''We were underdogs who nearly survived in a grownups world. Ultimately we didn't win it all.''
Setting a tone that followed the team for years, MWR found trouble at the start of the 2007 season in the Daytona 500. Waltrip's own car failed inspection when a suspicious substance was found in the Camry's intake manifold. NASCAR determined it was a fuel additive and kicked out competition director Bobby Kennedy and crew chief David Hyder.
In 2013, NASCAR determined that MWR manipulated the outcome of the race at Richmond in a bid to get Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase and slapped it with heavy penalties.
Bowyer said the struggle to find sponsorship helped doom MWR more than Richmond.
''Everybody wants to always talk about Richmond,'' he said. ''Richmond didn't do anything. We regrouped, we reorganized and we were a two-car team.''
Bowyer made the Chase this season but his title shot was crippled when NASCAR penalized the team for an infraction in the opening playoff race.
''I knew it was going to be a tough task to keep the group together and compete for a championship,'' Bowyer said.
Here are other items of note in advance of Sunday's NASCAR finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
WHO'S YOUR DADDY: GoDaddy is a goner.
After years of featuring Danica Patrick in Super Bowl commercials and serving as her primary sponsor, GoDaddy is done with racing.
The internet domain giant had been with Patrick in some form since 2007, and became her primary sponsor in 2010 when she raced in the IndyCar Series for Andretti Autosport. GoDaddy moved with Patrick to NASCAR, and is in its third year as primary sponsor of her No. 10 Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series.
Patrick has long been closely tied with GoDaddy's growth in the United States, largely because of the advertising campaigns that featured the driver. She was initially used in multiple provocative campaigns, but GoDaddy has toned down that approach of late and concentrated on attracting the small business owner.
Nature's Bakery takes over as the primary sponsor beginning next season. The Nevada-based food brand will place its signature tagline, ''Energy for Life's Great Journeys,'' on Patrick's car for 28 of the 38 Sprint Cup events.
SMOKE'S SEARCH: Tony Stewart could head into his final season in 2016 with a new crew chief.
Stewart, driver and co-owner at Stewart-Haas Racing, was never a factor in winning a race or making the Chase. He has no top fives, three top 10s and is buried in 28th in the standings.
Stewart won his last Sprint Cup championship with crew chief Darian Grubb in 2011, used Steve Addington for two seasons and Chad Johnston has called the shots the last two years.
''There's going to have to be a lot of changes,'' Stewart said. ''The hard part is when you get back where we're at right now, it's hard to sit there and say exactly what you need, because if it was that easy, you'd have fixed it by now. That's the hard part is trying to find those variables that we need to work through to get better next year.''
Stewart wants to go out a winner and race for a championship in his final race like the retiring Jeff Gordon is this season.
''You pray and you hope and you dream of having a season like Jeff has had where you come into the last race of your career and you hopefully have an opportunity to race for a championship,'' Stewart said.
UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Sam Hornish Jr. is set for a one-and-done year at Richard Petty Motorsports.
Hornish flopped in his return to the Cup series and RPM needs a driver that can deliver results and needed sponsorship to keep the No. 9 afloat.
Hornish is 25th with only three top 10s.