MWR reorganization features two full time cars

HAMPTON, GA - AUGUST 31:  Team owner Michael Waltrip (L) and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #56 NAPA Toyota, pose for a photo next to the #56 car following a press conference held by Michael Waltrip racing during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2012 in Hampton, Georgia. The press conference announced a continued partnership with NAPA as the title sponsor of the #56 car as well as a contract extension being signed by Truex with MWR.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

HAMPTON, GA – AUGUST 31: Team owner Michael Waltrip (L) and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #56 NAPA Toyota, pose for a photo next to the #56 car following a press conference held by Michael Waltrip racing during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2012 in Hampton, Georgia. The press conference announced a continued partnership with NAPA as the title sponsor of the #56 car as well as a contract extension being signed by Truex with MWR. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

Michael Waltrip Racing will run two full-time and one part-time car next season, leaving driver Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Chad Johnston free to pursue other options for 2014, the team announced Monday.

MWR will field the Nos. 15 and 55 Toyotas full-time, competing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, with the No. 56 running a limited schedule. Team owner Michael Waltrip will drive the No. 56 Camry in the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 23.

Scott Miller, who took over as interim crew chief for the No. 55 with the announced departure of Rodney Childers from Michael Waltrip Racing, will continue as full-time crew chief for the car in 2014. In addition, MWR is bolstering its research-and-development effort.

Clint Bowyer drives the No. 15 Camry and is competing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship this season, having qualified for the Chase. The status of Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 55, was clouded Monday with news of a recurrence of the sort of blood clot that kept him out of action for the final six months of the 2010 season.

Because he is taking blood-thinning medication under doctor’s orders, Vickers is unavailable to drive for the rest of the 2013 season.

“Our goals for the reorganization were two-fold, firstly to improve the competitiveness of our race teams and, secondly maintain a stable organizational structure,” co-owner Rob Kauffman said. “The team’s focus has been to find that last one percent needed to move from Chase participant to Cup champion. This realignment will get us closer to that last one percent.”

NASCAR penalized MWR heavily in September for attempting to manipulate the outcome of the final regular-season race at Richmond. In addition to a $300,000 fine to the organization, each of its three drivers lost 50 championship points. In Truex’s case the penalty, knocked him out of a spot in the Chase.

NAPA Auto Parts, Truex’s sponsor, subsequently opted out of its contract with MWR, a move that cost the company an estimated $16 million annually.

On Monday, MWR laid off approximately 15 percent of its work force and informed the employees who were affected by the cutbacks.

“Today was about doing what we had to do, not what we wanted to do,” Kauffman said. “It was important to let those whose jobs were affected know as early as possible, and a majority of those will remain with MWR through the end of the season.”

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