Clint Bowyer finally caught a break. Not so Martin Truex Jr.
After being on the receiving end of fan and peer scorn since putting his car into a slide and altering the outcome of the Richmond race and Chase field, the formerly popular and well-liked Bowyer finally got some good news last week.
Sponsor 5-Hour Energy drink is sticking with him and Michael Waltrip Racing in 2014 after putting their support under review in Richmond’s aftermath. He also receive support from several drivers, including Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Jimmie Johnson.
It was a quick reversal for 5-Hour. After initially saying “we’ll see how the year plays out," before making a decision on continuing its relationship with MWR and openly questioning the integrity of the team, the company did an about face and announced prior to Dover that they would be back season with Bowyer.
For Truex, the driver who has suffered the most and had the least to do with the MWR shenanigans, the news wasn’t so good. Having already lost NAPA sponsorship (rather MWR lost the sponsorship), Truex heard team co-owner and money man Rob Kauffman say he wasn’t inclined to pay for the No. 56 car out of his own pocket, as Gene Haas has said he will do for the Kurt Busch at Newman-Haas Racing.
"I'm in a lucky position," Kauffman said at Dover. "If the team breaks even and is competitive, I'm happy. I'm lucky enough I don't have to get my living from NASCAR. But it has to be commercially viable."
Lucky for Kauffman. Not so lucky for Truex.
With an estimated net worth of about $2 billion (yup, that's a "b") according to Forbes, Kauffman could certainly foot the bill if he wanted to. And he should have a little spare change. An investment banker who co-founded the Fortress Investment Group, Kauffman, 50, retired and cashed out late last year to the tune of about $150 million in order to avoid increased capital gain taxes. He couldn’t have been too concerned; he left another $100 million in his account.
He owns a successful car restoration company in Charlotte, RK Motors, which has served as a “fill-in” sponsor this year on the cars of Bowyer and Brian Vickers. But while the cars may have had RK Motors on their quarter panels, the money clearly came out of Kauffman’s own pocket. The past couple of years he also has self-funded a Ferrari in the Daytona and LeMans 24-hour endurance races that he co-drove along with Waltrip and Vickers. So the money is there, if Kauffman wants to dig.
Waltrip himself has said all the right things about wanting to keep Truex, but in the next breath says he won’t stand in his driver’s way if he wants out. Thanks Martin, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. While Truex will certainly be paid for the next two seasons, he is in his prime and wants to race. Furniture Row is looking for a driver and might be interested in Truex. Who knows, perhaps with NADA sponsorship. Let’s hope so.
And just to add a little salt to the wound, Miller Lite announced Wednesday it was extending its sponsorship of Penske Racing and Brad Keselowski for four more years, through the 2017 season. Penske has been in NASCAR’s doghouse more than any other team this year and in my way of thinking, committed the biggest crime in the Richmond race, which has gone unpunished.
No bad deed goes unrewarded. Or something like that.