CHARLOTTE (AP) — Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman has agreed to buy an interest in the race team owned by Chip Ganassi.
Kauffman’s defection to Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates means he could bring driver Clint Bowyer with him to the organization. CGR already fields cars for Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson.
MWR fields Sprint Cup teams for Bowyer and David Ragan, who earlier this year replaced Brian Vickers when Vickers was sidelined with recurring blood clots.
Kauffman retired at the end of 2012 from Fortress Investment Group, where he was one of three founders. The billionaire also is the chairman of the NASCAR team ownership group, the Race Team Alliance.
“The companies will continue to operate separately and compete against each other for the remainder of the 2015 season,” MWR said in Thursday’s statement. “They are also currently evaluating ways to field the most competitive race teams possible to provide an excellent platform for their partners and employees for the 2016 season and beyond.”
Kauffman helped save MWR in 2007 when the team had financial issues, and with Kauffman’s financial assistance, it grew into a three-car organization that had a legitimate title contender in Bowyer.
MWR was rocked in 2013 in the aftermath of the Richmond scandal and it hasn’t fully recovered. NASCAR determined that Michael Waltrip Racing manipulated the outcome of the race in a bid to get Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
MWR lost Truex and longtime sponsor NAPA in the wake of the scandal and Vickers has been in and out of the car with medical issues.
Without Kauffman and with the likelihood of fielding just one car in 2016, MWR could struggle again — or possibly even shutter.
“My focus is on 2015 and fulfilling the commitment we have made to our partners and Toyota which is placing our teams in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup,” Waltrip said in a statement. “There are a lot of details yet to be sorted regarding 2016. I will work closely with Rob Kauffman and our sponsors to formulate the best way forward.”