DOVER, Del.—Amid the turbulence and controversy that have surrounded Michael Waltrip Racing since the final regular-season Sprint Cup event Sept. 6 at Richmond came a welcome piece of good news.
5-hour Energy announced Friday morning that company would return next season as a primary sponsor on Clint Bowyer’s No. 15 Toyota. Bowyer’s spin with seven laps left in the Richmond race started a sequence events that earned MWR severe penalties for trying to manipulate the outcome and ensure a Chase spot for one of its drivers, Martin Truex Jr.
NASCAR fined MWR $300,000 and docked each of its drivers 50 points, effectively knocking Truex out of the Chase. Subsequently, Bowyer and team owner Michael Waltrip have had little success convincing fellow drivers and the NASCAR fan base that the spin that changed the race wasn’t intentional.
Truex’s sponsor, auto parts retailer NAPA, announced it was opting out of its contract at the end of the year. 5-hour Energy initially indicated it was reviewing its sponsorship options, but by Friday, the review was complete.
“This week the 5-hour Energy team met after the New Hampshire race to discuss our future with Michael Waltrip Racing,” the company posted on its Facebook page. “While our original plan was to announce the status of our sponsorship at the end of the year, this time frame left many concerned about their future. There are scores of passionate fans, numerous charitable organizations, and hundreds of hard-working MWR employees and their families who are directly impacted by 5-hour Energy’s NASCAR sponsorship.
“After several internal discussions and meetings with MWR, we are prepared to announce our decision ahead of schedule. 5-hour Energy will be back as a sponsor of MWR and Clint Bowyer for 2014. We look forward to another great year of competitive racing. Go 15!”