Michael Waltrip says he will not stand in Martin Truex Jr.’s way should he wish to leave the team following the race-manipulation scandal and consequent sponsor pullout.
NAPA, lead sponsor of Truex’s No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, announced on Thursday that it was ending its long-term deal with Waltrip following its punishments for manipulating the Richmond round that set the Chase field.
Truex lost his place in the Chase line-up as a result of the penalties. The move means MWR is hunting for new funding to maintain its three-car Cup lineup.
While Waltrip is adamant that the team can remain intact for 2014, he admitted Truex was free to go if he wished.
“If he came to me tomorrow and said, ‘I got a deal to go do something,’ then obviously I would not hold him back,” Waltrip told reporters at New Hampshire Motor Speedway ahead of this weekend’s race. “I owe him a lot for his loyalty and his passion for our team.
“I wouldn’t hold him back from doing something he wanted to do, but I’d like him to hang around so we can attract a sponsor and keep him in our cars.”
Waltrip admitted he was not surprised that NAPA chose to leave his team.
“They just felt like the events of the last 10 days had spiraled out of control a bit,” he said. “They felt like what we were involved with and NASCAR penalized us for was more than they were comfortable dealing with, more than they were comfortable with accepting.”