|Waltrip: "I'd like him to hang around."|
“I talked with (Martin) yesterday,” said Waltrip to reporters at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “We talked with all the folks at MWR. A race car driver has to know what his deal is for next year. We asked for a little bit of time to try and figure all this out, and he agreed to that.
“But if he came to me tomorrow and said, `I got a deal to go do something,' I would not hold him back. I owe him a lot for his loyalty and his passion for our team. I wouldn't hold him back from doing something he wanted to do, but I'd like him to hang around so we can attract a sponsor and keep him in our cars."
“He’s an amazingly talented race car driver,” said Waltrip, “and I know things will work out for him. Hopefully, (they will) work out for us to have three cars next year.”
After NAPA announced plans to withdraw from the final two seasons of its approximately $15-million per year sponsorship contract, Waltrip said he initially feared for the future of his team.
“Obviously, it’s been a rocky couple of weeks,” he said. “And yes, I was scared and uncertain of our future. But after speaking with the folks from Aaron’s and… all of our partners, they’re supporting us. They’re going to stick with us and believe that we are a quality first-class organization.”
He said the tumult surrounding NASCAR’s regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway – MWR’s second major controversy in six years -- was “more than (NAPA was) comfortable dealing with, more than they were comfortable with accepting. They worked hard to try to figure out a way to hang around.
"They just felt like the events of the last 10 days had spiraled out of control a bit,” he said, adding that his goal for the coming weeks is to “race forward with respect and appreciation for being able to be here, and start gaining back trust.
“These last two races, you wonder a little bit what people are thinking,” he said. “I started back at the beginning of the season going out into the infield visiting with the fans. I did it at Chicago and I did it again last night, and the fans are very, very supportive and appreciative of who we are. We made a mistake in the heat of the battle, but 100% of the people I met last night were supportive and felt like we just needed to focus on our cars and move on.”