Despite a flurry of statements from all involved parties, facts are difficult to come by surrounding Rob Kauffman’s announced plan to purchase a minority ownership stake in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
Confirmed late last week, the deal is expected to result in the transfer of driver Clint Bowyer and the No. 15 5-Hour Energy machine from Kauffman’s current team, Michael Waltrip Racing, to the Ganassi camp.
Ganassi Racing confirmed last week that Kauffman has agreed to acquire an interest in the team, adding only that “further discussions regarding the 2016 season and beyond are underway.”
A terse written statement from Michael Waltrip Racing said only that “the companies will continue to operate separately and compete against each other for the remainder of the 2015 season. They are also currently evaluating ways to field the most competitive race teams possible to provide an excellent platform for their partners and employees for the 2016 season and beyond.”
Waltrip also issued a personal statement, saying, “My focus is on 2015 and fulfilling the commitment we have made to our partners and Toyota; which is placing our teams in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. There are a lot of details yet to be sorted regarding 2016. I will work closely with Rob Kauffman and our sponsors to formulate the best way forward."
|MWR majority owner Rob Kauffman|
Kauffman addressed the move in a two-minute, 41-second press conference at Pocono Raceway Saturday that included no questions from reporters and raised at least as many questions as it answered.
“The thing that’s important to realize is that Michael Waltrip and I co-own Michael Waltrip Racing together,” he said. “We’re business partners and great personal friends, so any idea that I’m leaving or taking anything is actually misplaced. What we’re actually doing is integrating the businesses, trying to get the most competitive product on track (and) do the best for all of our partners. That’s really our focus.”
Kauffman declined to field questions from reporters, adding that there are many details to be worked out before the deal is finalized.
|Kauffman and Waltrip: futures unknown|
“Whether we have three cars, four cars, two roofs, one roof; that’s all yet to be determined,” he said. “How we do in the 2015 season will help determine (what) happens. If we do a great job, that’ll be one outcome. If we do a less great job, probably another.”
In a written statement Friday, Toyota officials revealed that they have not been informed of Kauffman’s plans for the future.
"Rob has not disclosed the plans for Michael Waltrip Racing past the 2015 racing season,” said the automaker. “Toyota and TRD remain focused on winning races and championships with our team partners this year."
Multiple sources say that neither Toyota nor Chevrolet – CGR’s manufacturer – will allow Kauffman to hold ownership stakes in both teams, under separate manufacturer umbrellas. In short, despite his apparent insistence to the contrary, Kauffman has a choice to make in the very near future; either remain with MWR, or divest himself and join Chip Ganassi.
Last week’s announcement unleashed a flurry of activity among MWR employees and crewmembers, many of whom have already begun distributing resumes in an effort to find new jobs for 2016 and beyond.
“No matter what happens in the next few weeks, I won’t say a single bad word about Rob Kauffman,” said a current MWR employee, on the condition on anonymity. “Without him, this team would have been gone years ago. He bailed us out in 2007, and a time or two since then. He is the reason why the doors are still open.
“If it ends here, it has been a good run.”