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NAPA ending sponsorship with Michael Waltrip Racing because of Richmond actions

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Michael Waltrip Racing has received a bigger shot to the bow than any NASCAR could have given it following the events at Richmond. And it came from a current sponsor.

NAPA announced on its Facebook page Thursday that it would be leaving the team at the end of the season.

After thorough consideration, NAPA has made the difficult decision to end its sponsorship arrangement with Michael Waltrip Racing effective December 31, 2013. NAPA believes in fair play and does not condone actions such as those that led to the penalties assessed by NASCAR. We remain supportive of the millions of NASCAR fans and will evaluate our future position in motorsports.

NAPA stuck by Michael Waltrip Racing at the 2007 Daytona 500, when the team was penalized for having an illegal substance in the intake manifold. In that incident, when Michael Waltrip Racing was in its infancy, Waltrip was docked 100 points and his crew chief David Hyder was fined $100,000 and suspended from the garage.

That was more than six years ago, and MWR eventually recovered to become the three-team stable it is today. And that’s in large part to the continued support of the auto parts supplier, who is one of the few full-season sponsors remaining in the sport.

Now that support isn’t there. NAPA sponsors the No. 56 of Martin Truex Jr., who was removed from the Chase via a 50 point penalty after NASCAR investigated the finish at Richmond. In the closing laps, teammates Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers made sure to let Joey Logano finish ahead of them so that Truex would make the Chase. (It’s worth noting that the jet fuel incident directly involved the actions of the NAPA team while it was the actions of the two-non NAPA teams at Richmond that led to the penalties.)

The decision also means that one of the most prestigious sponsorships in NASCAR is a free agent, and that a Chase-caliber team and driver is suddenly without a sponsor. To say that the future of the No. 56 car is in limbo would not be an overstatement. And the future of another car and driver combination could soon be solidified.