NAPA dropped its multimillion dollar sponsorship of Michael Waltrip Racing on Thursday, a result of the unprecedented NASCAR scandal at Richmond International Speedway earlier this month, USAToday reported.
The auto parts company had multiple years left on its contract with No. 56 Martin Truex, who benefitted when members of his team unfairly manipulated the outcome of the Federated Auto Parts 400. Truex, thanks to a timely pit stop and a dubious spin-out, earned the final wild card in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. NASCAR eventually levied its harshest penalty ever, removing Truex from the Chase along with a $300,000 fine. Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon were added to the field.
NAPA's decision may be even more debilitating than any sanctions NASCAR could impose. The company had sponsored MWR racing since the Sprint Cup in 2007 and had renewed an extension last year with the team that the Sports Business Journal estimated could be worth $16 million annually.
“After thorough consideration, NAPA has made the difficult decision to end its sponsorship arrangement with Michael Waltrip Racing effective December 31, 2013. NAPA believes in fair play and does not condone actions such as those that led to the penalties assessed by NASCAR,” the company said in a post on its Facebook page.
Team owner Michael Waltrip responded to the news:
“NAPA has been with me from winning two Daytona 500s, to missing races with a new start-up team, and back to victory lane again. The relationship grew far past that of a sponsor, but more of a partner and a friend,” he said in a statement.
“To the fans who made their voices heard through social media, as the owner, I am responsible for all the actions of MWR. I sincerely apologize for the role our team played and for the lines NASCAR has ruled were crossed by our actions at Richmond. NASCAR met with competitors in Chicago and we all know how we are expected to race forward.”