MWR co-owner says organization no longer ‘commercially viable’

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BRISTOL, Tenn. – The man seeking to change the business model for NASCAR owners admits it no longer was “commercially viable” to operate Michael Waltrip Racing after this season.

Rob Kauffman, who would not reveal how many millions of dollars he’s lost since partnering with Michael Waltrip in Oct. 2007, said the team’s equipment will be sold after this season and that the shop’s “best use is as a housing development … instead of a race shop.’’

Kauffman has agreed to purchase a stake in Chip Ganassi Racing.

The move allows Kauffman to keep from losing money with MWR. He also can spend more time in his role as chairman of the Race Team Alliance, which seeks a way to provide long-term equity for owners. Team owners have little more than equipment, a race shop and car owner points to sell if sponsorship goes away and they must close.

The sport’s history is littered with mergers or owners selling the remains of their teams at auction because they lost sponsorship and could not continue. Former drivers Darrell Waltrip, Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace all closed shop after sponsorship went away.

“Michael Waltrip Racing really wouldn’t have existed through today without substantial and continued financial support from me,’’ Kauffman said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. “I think just from a business standpoint that didn’t make sense any longer. You can’t have a top-10 budget and top-10 resources and not be in the top 10 for a sustained period of time.

“It’s a performance-related business. It’s a great sport, but a very difficult business model. From a business decision it just made sense to not go forward with that organization because it isn’t really commercially viable.’’

Kauffman, co-founder of Fortress Investment Group, was estimated to have a net worth of $1.8 billion in 2007, according to Forbes. Kauffman retired from the private-equity and hedge-fund group in 2012, cashing out his shares for $180 million.

Kauffman has repeatedly said that the car owners face significant financial challenges.

He is hopeful a new program can be in place next season for car owners to have added value – similar to franchising as is used in other sports. In April, the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA were sold for $850 million. The team was purchased, along with the arena and an NHL team that has since moved for $250 million in 2004.

Kauffman is looking to have the RTA and NASCAR devise a program that will provide car owners with similar growth in value over time.

“I’m quite optimistic on the discussion with the folks of NASCAR regarding a variety of the things around the sport,’’ he said. “The competition side, the long-term equity program are all initiatives well under way. I’m pretty optimistic we’ll make some good progress in the next number of months.’’

With Michael Waltrip Racing’s departure, all three of the original teams with Toyota in 2007 will no longer be in the sport after this season. Bill Davis Racing closed in 2008 and Red Bull Racing left the sport after the 2011 season.

Kauffman admits the 2013 scandal at Richmond – where NASCAR penalized MWR for attempting to manipulate the results for Chase considerations – played a significant role in the organization’s downfall. As a result of the penalty, Martin Truex Jr. did not make the Chase after originally doing so.

Shortly after the penalty, NAPA announced it would break its contract with Michael Waltrip Racing and leave the organization after that season. That forced Michael Waltrip Racing to go from a three-car to a two-car team in 2014 and it never recovered.

“Certainly that was a pretty heavy body blow to the organization, caused a big restructuring; 2014 was at some level a large reset year, competitive and financially,’’ Kauffman said. “As we got into the late spring, April and May 2015, really from a performance standpoint, the company wasn’t where it needed to be. That kind of forced some decisions. That’s where we wound up today.’’

 

 

 

NASCAR Pinty’s Series to compete on dirt for first time in 2020

NASCAR Pinty's Series
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NASCAR’s continued embrace of dirt racing will continue in 2020 with the Canada-based Pinty’s Series.

The series announced on Friday a multi-year deal that will see it compete on a dirt track for the first time next season at Ohsweken Speedway in Ontario.

The event on the 3/8-mile track will consist of practice, time trials, qualifying heats, and a 100-lap feature event to be run at 9 p.m. ET on Aug. 18.

The series follows in the steps of the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and its yearly visit to Eldora Speedway, which began in 2013. It also joins the ARCA Menards Series West, which has held a race on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track the last two seasons.

“Next year is the 25th anniversary of Ohsweken Speedway,” said track owner Glenn Styres in a press release. “It will be amazing to see NASCAR stock cars racing around this place. This is a great chance to show the world what a first class facility we have here in Ohsweken.”

“Pinty’s has a long history in motorsports and whether it’s our NASCAR Pinty’s Series venues, Short Track Nationals at both Jukasa in Canada and Bristol in the USA or our investment in Pinty’s All North Racing on MavTV, we know our target audience lives for authentic experiences.” said Anthony Spiteri of series sponsor Pinty’s Delicious Foods in a press release.. “Taking the Pinty’s Series to the ever popular Ohsweken Speedway combines the best of the best in teams, drivers and venues. I suspect a few surprises for our fans as well!  August can’t come quick enough.”

Joey Logano set to test Next Gen car today, Tuesday at ISM Raceway

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Joey Logano will become the second Cup driver to test the Next Gen car when he hits the track today and Tuesday at ISM Raceway.

This test of the car, which is scheduled to debut in 2021, follows the session that took place Oct. 8-9 at Richmond Raceway by Austin Dillon. Logano will drive the same car that Dillon did. That car was prepared by Richard Childress Racing.

Logano explained what he was looking forward to with the new car:

“Just understanding, for one, just some durability stuff but also understanding what works and what doesn’t. I’d like to, once we get to some point, I’d like to make some longer runs just to kind of see where things go. There are so many differences with the car that we need to understand.

“I think it’s still very much in the beginning of the process. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to getting back in a race car.

Logano said he was “curious” how the car would drive with the independent rear suspension.

“I think that will be interesting to say the least,” he said.

The next text for the car is scheduled in January at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That will mark the car’s first test on a 1.5-mile track.

Rain washes out Snowball Derby, rescheduled to Monday

Five Flags Speedway
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Rain has postponed the 52nd Snowball Derby Super Late Model race from Sunday to Monday at 5 p.m. ET/4 p.m. CT at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

Track officials tried several times to dry the track, only to be met with recurrences of rain.

Even with the rain issue, one bit of significant news was announced: the track is granting a special provisional exception and expanded the race day field from its normal 36-driver field to 37 drivers. The reason: veteran racer David Rogers was presented with the Derby Dedication Award for his 32 previous starts in the Snowball Derby.

Monday will make Roger’s 33rd career start in the annual pre-winter event, breaking a tie with legendary driver Red Farmer for most starts in the race.

Rogers has had a challenging year, having battled and then overcoming lymphoma. Monday’s rescheduled race will be the Florida resident’s first start behind the wheel since he was officially declared cancer-free.

“David’s Snowball Derby dedication has been unmatched in the history of this race,” Five Flags Speedway owner Tim Bryant said in a statement.  “We felt like being in this race served as real motivation for David in his battle with cancer this year, and we wish him the best of luck in today’s race.”

Also, driver Justin Bonnett, grandson of late NASCAR star Neil Bonnett, is recovering in a Mobile, Alabama hospital after undergoing surgery to repair a broken leg and treat burns to his face, hands and body. Bonnett was involved in a crash and subsequent fireball created by a fuel cell that broke away from a fellow competitor’s race car during Saturday night’s Snowflake 100 race at Five Flags Speedway.

 

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UPDATED: Neil Bonnett’s grandson seriously injured in fiery crash

Photo courtesy Justin Bonnett Racing official Facebook page
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The grandson of late NASCAR Cup star Neil Bonnett was seriously injured in a crash during Saturday night’s Snowflake 100 late model race at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

Justin Bonnett suffered a compound fracture of the fibula and tibula and burns to his hands, face and neck in a fiery wreck that prompted him to be transferred to a hospital in Mobile, Alabama, according to a post on his team’s Facebook page.

According to various media reports, Bonnett was running 26th on Lap 54 when he was unable to avoid and made contact with the spinning car of Jarrett Parker.

Driving the No. 12, the same number his late grandfather carried for much of his Cup career, the younger Bonnett’s car was engulfed in flames after the fuel tank on Parker’s car became dislodged and caught fire, spilling fuel and flames across the racetrack. Here is a video of the incident, courtesy of Joshua Nelms, who shot the video, and Sidedrafting Productions, which posted it.

Bonnett’s car came to a stop on the apron between turns three and four, where he was quickly pulled from his car by safety crews, who also extinguished the fire. The race was red-flagged for a lengthy period of time afterward.

According to media reports, the 26-year-old Bonnett was taken by ambulance to a local Pensacola hospital, where he was briefly treated before he was airlifted to a hospital in Mobile.

It was upon arrival at the Mobile hospital that it was determined Bonnett would undergo late night surgery, according to several posts on his Facebook page, written by his aunt and Neil’s daughter, Kristen Bonnett Ray.

Later Sunday morning, Bonnett’s aunt posted this update on his condition:

Justin Bonnett still lives in Hueytown, Ala., home of the famous “Alabama Gang,” of which his grandfather was part of, as well as Bobby and Donnie Allison, Red Farmer, Jimmy Means, the late Davey Allison, Hut Stricklin and David Bonnett, Justin’s father.

The Snowflake 100 was a preliminary race for Sunday’s main event, the 52nd annual Snowball Derby. The 300-lap race starts at 2 p.m. ET.

Here are several additional posts on Bonnett’s wreck from social media:

 

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