A written statement issued by the team said Bowyer “will be free to pursue other career options in 2016 and beyond.”
MWR will continue to field the No. 15 and No. 55 Toyotas for the remainder of the season, but will not field a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup entry in 2016.
Kauffman commented on that decision today, saying it “was made after weighing several different options and scenarios. I felt it was important to make an announcement as soon as we had clarity.
“Clint Bowyer has done a lot for MWR since joining us in 2012 and we appreciate the energy and effort he has given the organization,” Kauffman said. “After many discussions, Clint and I agreed we would go our separate ways at the end of the season and I wish him well in whatever direction he pursues.”
Bowyer echoed Kauffman’s comments, saying, “After extensive discussions with Rob and MWR, we came to the point that we mutually agreed our paths in the future just didn’t align, but I think we all agreed on the next steps in a very professional manner. I am looking forward to what future opportunities may come. But for now, we have a championship to pursue in 2015 and we owe it to every one of our sponsors, partners, employees and fans to deliver, on and off the track.”
Widespread reports have both Bowyer and Kauffman joining Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates next season; Bowyer as a driver and Kauffman as minority owner. CGR confirmed last month that Kauffman had agreed to acquire an interest in the team, but Sabates said recently that the deal is not yet complete.
“We don't have anything concrete," he said. "We'd like to do something with him, because I think he can add a lot to our team. (But) we don't have anything signed."
Today’s statement is believed to be the first step in terminating Bowyer’s existing contract with MWR, clearing the way for him to accompany Kauffman to the Ganassi camp in 2016. That move would leave Waltrip without a majority stakeholder, while reducing his former three-car team to a single entry; the No. 55 Toyota. Multiple sources say longtime backer Aaron’s was likely to return in only a limited capacity next season.
Waltrip commented on his team’s withdrawal from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, saying, “Rob joined MWR in 2007 and has helped give us the resources to build a competitive race team and in 2012, Clint Bowyer took us to the doorstep of a championship. From where MWR started behind my house in Sherrill’s Ford to winning Sprint Cup races, poles and earning Chase berths, I am proud of what we accomplished.
“My family has been a part of NASCAR for almost five decades and I plan on being a part of it for years to come. I would not have had the opportunity to start this journey without so many great partners, sponsors and employees and I want to thank each of them for making Michael Waltrip Racing a reality.”