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MWR's Kauffman unlikely to sponsor Truex

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Martin Truex Jr. can scratch his team owner off the potential list of 2014 sponsors.

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Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman all but ruled out that he would fund the sponsor-strapped driver. NAPA Auto Parts announced early this month it was ending its multimillion-dollar sponsorship of MWR at the end of the year in the wake of the Richmond cheating scandal. Truex, who was stripped of his Chase spot, faces an uncertain future as he scrambles to find a new deal.

``I would say that's a relatively low probability,'' of sponsoring Truex, Kauffman said. ``We could fill in a gap. We're working on all kinds of options.''

Furniture Row Racing is in the mix for Truex after losing Kurt Busch to Stewart-Haas Racing. General manager Joe Garone said at Dover the organization had expressed interest in the veteran driver.

Kauffman, founder of the Fortress Investment Group and a racing enthusiast, saved MWR in 2007 when he bought into the organization and pumped in the cash Waltrip needed to stay afloat. Kauffman has answered the call at every level of Waltrip's plan to grow the organization into one of NASCAR's top teams.

Kauffman also founded RK Motors, which restores classic cars, and has stepped in to fill occasional sponsorship holes in the past. He was at Dover Sunday and a NASCAR track for the first time since the scandal hit. He returned from overseas to get MWR reorganized.

``The team made mistakes,'' he said. ``We made a lot of progress with Michael Waltrip Racing the past seven years. It's obviously a big setback. We've paid a heavy price. Now, I'm focused on what do we need to change to improve.''

MWR driver Clint Bowyer learned Friday sponsor 5-Hour Energy decided to stick with embattled MWR through the 2014 season.

Aaron's, sponsor of Brian Vickers for MWR, said it remains dedicated to the organization.

Kauffman thanked the sponsors that stuck with the organization after it ``put them in a difficult position.''

MWR was also fined $300,000, general manager Ty Norris was suspended indefinitely and all three crew chiefs for its drivers were placed on probation for the rest of the year because of the manipulation of the Richmond race.

Kauffman called Norris a ``valuable member'' of the organization but refused to comment on his future role in the organization.

He also said the scandal hasn't affected his desire to stay in NASCAR.

``I'm in a lucky position,'' Kauffman said. ``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.''

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

  
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