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For better racing, survival of teams, Michael Waltrip sees answer in spec parts

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Michael Waltrip used to be an owner of a multi-car NASCAR Cup Series team.

“Used to” is the key part of that sentence.

The two-time Daytona 500 winner owned Michael Waltrip Racing from 2002-2015, fielding cars in 783 starts and earning seven wins.

Then the sponsorship money dried up.

It’s similar to the situation that found Furniture Row Racing announcing Tuesday it would be shutting it doors following the 2018 season, a year after it was atop the NASCAR world as the Cup champion.

“I have an intimate knowledge of spending more money than you got coming from sponsorship,” Waltrip said Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint.” “It was the reason our team doesn’t exist anymore.”

Waltrip, now an analyst for Fox Sports, said a closer look needs to be taken at NASCAR’s business model to “try to figure out a way to make it more viable to have more owners that want to participate. The more that want to play, the better it is.”

For his part, Waltrip championed the further exploration of using spec parts. In the Truck Series, many teams have gone to the spec Ilmor engine. In the Cup Series, spec pit guns are now used by teams. The Xfinity Series has transitioned to a composite body for its cars.

“You have to be competitive for the sponsors you have, whatever it costs to be competitive is what owners will spend,” Waltrip said. “That being said, sometimes you gotta save competitive people from themselves. … We need a spec chassis. A chassis that maybe Richard Childress Racing produces it and supplies to the industry or … maybe there’s a couple of suppliers. (We need a) chassis that we’re not spending millions of dollars developing … right after you just completed a new chassis.”

Waltrip then pointed to the differences between Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford that he won Sunday’s Southern 500 with and the car it was made to resemble, Rusty Wallace’s No. 27 Pontiac from 1990.

“You just look at a picture of them, you see basically the same thing,” Waltrip said. “But what’s going on underneath that car? There’s some crazy stuff happening with some exotic metals and things that move around and then when you stop they’re back to where they’re supposed to be and all of that is unnecessary. A race fan can’t see that. A race fan just wants to see their favorite guy outrun the rest and we’re spending a lot of money on moving parts and pieces and I just don’t think it’s necessary.”

Waltrip added: “I just feel like there’s a way for us to find common parts and pieces on the car where the crew chief and engineers can still adjust on those cars, but it comes down more to just a driver racing another.”

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