The NASCAR this week has all about Rob Kauffman. Kauffman, who’s currently partnered with Michael Waltrip Racing today announced he’s buying into Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Earlier rumors that Sabates was being bought out by Kauffman have proven false.
Michael Waltrip Racing confirmed Kauffman’s purchase:
“Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, has agreed to buy an interest in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. The companies will continue to operate separately and compete against each other for the remainder of the 2015 season. 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. More details will follow in due course.”
Questions that will soon be answered, but have yet to be include:
1. What is the future of Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR)?
Sponsorship is up in the air, and after dropping from three teams to two after the Richmond incident in 2013, the team has never gotten back to its success. It’s a distinct possibility that Kauffman’s leaving could be the end of MWR. MWR may have another partner waiting in the wind, or its team (or teams) could be folded up into another organization. Regardless, 2016 will be distinctly different than 2015 for MWR.
2. Will Clint Bowyer move over to be the third team an CGR?
Currently 16th in points, it’s rumored that Bowyer would move over in 2016 with his sponsor, 5-Hour Energy, being the third team, returning Bowyer to Chevrolet after leaving Richard Childress Racing for MWR.
Felix Sabates has been quoted as saying this deal makes their organization a three car team. The educated guess/assumption is that Bowyer would be the driver of that third team, following Kauffman, and personally, as a Bowyer fan, the hope is the change in scenery would do as good for Bowyer as it did when Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth moved a few seasons back.
3. If the No. 15 Sprint Cup team does move to CGR, what does “team” encompass?
This is up in the air as well. When the No. 56 team left MWR, a lot of the crew went with Martin Truex, Jr. to Furniture Row Racing, but that was more a matter of jobs drying up at MWR and new ones opening with the No. 78 team (and familiarity and comfort with Truex). It’s a case-by-case basis but it could be only the driver going to CGR, or it could be personnel, hauler, equipment, or somewhere in between.
Even the personnel thing could be somewhere in between. Brian Pattie and Billy Scott recently swapped crew chief roles. It’s not clear whether Scott would go with Bowyer, fresh after working with him weekly or not.
While today the rumor of Kauffman’s purchase got confirmed, there a lot more questions and rumors yet to be clarified. Stay tuned for updates as we hear about them.