Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) and Clint Bowyer have mutually agreed to separate at the conclusion of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season the team announced Wednesday. The team said Bowyer, who is currently 16th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase standings, is free to pursue other career options in 2016 and beyond. MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman purchased a stake in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in July but has not been clear about what his future plans are.
Those plans became clearer Wednesday when in a press release the team said it will continue to field the No. 15 and No. 55 Toyotas for the remainder of the 2015 season and Kauffman said MWR will not field a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup entry in 2016. The speculation is that Kaufmann will take ons of MWR’s cars to Ganassi to form a three-car Chevrolet team.
“MWR will race hard and compete for the remainder of the 2015 season. This decision was made after weighing several different options and scenarios,” Kaufmann said. “I felt it was important to make an announcement as soon as we had clarity, so that is what we are doing today. I want to thank all of our staff, partners, sponsors and fans for all their effort and support over the years.”
Michael Waltrip Racing started competing in NASCAR’s top-tier Winston Cup Series in 2002, making its debut at the 2002 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. The car was driven by Kenny Wallace. Wallace qualified 27th and finished 21st. Following that first race, Waltrip sold the owner points to Innovative Motorsports. MWP sporadically competed in the following years until 2006 when MWR signed an agreement with Toyota to field multiple Toyota Camrys in the Nextel Cup Series for 2007.
The 2007 was nothing short of a disaster for the team. In February, Waltrip’s teams primary cars were banned and stripped of their starting spots in the season opening Daytona 500 after an illegal fuel additive was found. With no owner points the team failed to qualify for many races. Waltrip then signed British-American billionaire Rob Kauffman as a 50% co-owner. That partnership appears to have ended with the announcement Wednesday.
“Rob joined MWR in 2007 and has helped give us the resources to build a competitive race team, and in 2012, Clint Bowyer took us to the doorstep of a championship. From where MWR started behind my house in Sherrill’s Ford to winning Sprint Cup races, poles and earning Chase berths, I am proud of what we accomplished,” Waltrip said. “My family has been a part of NASCAR for almost five decades and I plan on being a part of it for years to come. I would not have had the opportunity to start this journey without so many great partners, sponsors and employees and I want to thank each of them for making Michael Waltrip Racing a reality.”
Bowyer signed with MWR in 2011. Prior to that he raced for Richard Childress Racing. Overall Bowyer has eight career wins in 348 starts.
“I want to thank Michael, Rob and everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing that made these past four years special,” Bowyer said. “After extensive discussions with Rob and MWR, we came to the point that we mutually agreed our paths in the future just didn’t align but I think we all agreed on the next steps in a very professional manner. I am looking forward to what future opportunities may come but for now we have a championship to pursue in 2015 and we owe it to every one of our sponsors, partners, employees and fans to deliver on and off the track.”