The more people on the inside and in the know when it comes to the Rob Kauffman / Chip Ganassi Racing deal speak, one would think the picture would become clearer regarding the future of Michael Waltrip Racing. But it seems like the more that’s said, the more blurry the picture gets.
Maybe Kauffman and CGR weren’t really ready to make their announcement when they did last Thursday. Maybe the official announcement came because they felt their hands were forced by the news of Kauffman’s planned purchase of a minority share of Chip Ganassi’s NASCAR race team being leaked on Wednesday. Maybe the plans aren’t completely worked out yet. Or maybe they feel it’s premature to reveal the exact plans, other than the fact that Kauffman plans to buy into Ganassi’s race team.
Still, it leaves me, and apparently a lot of other people, pondering exactly where the deal leaves Michael Waltrip Racing. Will there even be a Michael Waltrip Racing in 2016?
Original reports before the official announcement had Kauffman buying Felix Sabates’ portion of CGR. Sabates has since disputed those claims, saying he’d be around for a little more than five years.
Other reports have had Kauffman taking the No. 15 team, complete with driver Clint Bowyer, with him to CGR next year. Sabates has mentioned that CGR will be a three-car team next year, expanding from its current state as a two-car team, fielding rides for Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson. That kind of gives the No. 15 and Bowyer move from MWR to CGR speculation some teeth, doesn’t it?
If that’s the case, where would that leave a then-one-car operation called Michael Waltrip Racing? That would just leave the No. 55 Toyota there. Worth mentioning — sponsor Aaron’s Sales and Lease Services, the longtime sponsor on that No. 55, will come to the end of its contract with MWR at season’s end. Will Aaron’s re-up? Will there still be a Michael Waltrip Racing with which to resign?
Maybe MWR will continue as a one-car op, switch to Chevrolet and embark on a technical alliance with the newly-expanded Chip Ganassi Racing. While a manufacturer switch is costly, I’m thinking that may be MWR’s best hope for survival beyond 2015.
But does MWR even want to survive as a separate entity beyond the current season? I didn’t even ponder this possibility until Kauffman’s statement over the past weekend. See what I mean? The more that’s said, the more cloudy this picture gets.
“In terms of our plans, whether we have three cars, four cars, two roofs, one roof, that’s all yet to be determined,” Kauffman said at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., on Saturday.
Does that mean it’s undecided whether or not the current CGR and MWR will be merged or kept separately? And if kept separate, will Kauffman maintain his majority stake in MWR? Right now, one’s a Toyota team (MWR) and the other a Chevrolet team (CGR). That brings me back around to the MWR/Chevrolet/technical alliance scenario.
Or by one roof, does that mean there’s a possibility of a complete merger?
Or by not being able to decide one roof or two roofs, is Kauffman just being coy and actually meaning that the CGR campus could be spread across a couple of buildings, i.e. Hendrick Motorsports, where one building houses the No. 48 and No. 88 teams and another the No. 24 and No. 5 teams?
Oh, Kauffman, you sure know how to keep us wondering. Or maybe you really haven’t made the specific concrete decisions. Again, maybe you had to make an announcement before plans were ironed out to combat the leaked info. from the previous day.
“I think it’s important to realize Michael and I own Michael Waltrip Racing; we control Michael Waltrip Racing together,” Kauffman said Saturday. “We’re business partners. We’re great personal friends. So any idea that I’m leaving or taking anything is actually misplaced. What we’re really doing is integrating the business, trying to get th emost competitive product on track, do the best for all of our partners and that’s really our focus.”
Okay, so maybe that tells us that Kauffman’s not leaving MWR. But will there even be an MWR left to leave? Will Kauffman own portions of two teams? Or will this be a complete merger? If someone owns two teams, that would kind of make it one consolidated team, right? Well, not really, when you consider the rest of the ownership group of each team is different — Ganassi and Sabates at CGR and Waltrip at MWR.
But then again, if this is a complete merger, where does this leave Waltrip? There’s been no announcement of Waltrip buying into Chip Ganassi Racing. Will Waltrip be getting out of the ownership game after 2015? Maybe he’s buying in, too, and that’s just not news that other parties have felt the need to release, yet.
In this situation, it seems that when one question is answered, two more arise. Or have there even been any questions answered, really? All this speculation is beginning to give me a headache.
Kauffman, you really know how to keep us wondering. Remember, folks, this is the same guy who created and announced the infamous Race Team Alliance. Remember how we were wondering about that? What was it for? What was it going to do? Would it really make a difference? Is it a union? According to Kauffman, the RTA has been successful. If it has, the accomplishments made aren’t in areas noticed by fans. As for these new track-specific aero packages, they’re a result of the new drivers’ council.
Do we know, yet, the specific goals and purposes of the RTA? I don’t know about you, but I still feel a little confused about that one. We got the membership qualifications info., and from what I can remember, that was about it.
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