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Michael Waltrip Racing to cease operations at season's end

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Rob Kauffman, an amateur racer who is a highly successful businessman, said Friday he had enough of pouring his own money into Michael Waltrip Racing without seeing results and announced that MWR would cease operations after this season.

While Clint Bowyer appears to be hanging on to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, MWR has not won a race in more than two years and has only seven wins in the nine years it has been racing in Cup. Bowyer finished second in the standings in 2012 and seventh in 2013, but the organization has only nine top-5s since the start of 2014.

Kauffman, who saved MWR from closing in 2007 by purchasing half the team from Waltrip, announced Wednesday that the team would not field Sprint Cup cars in 2016.

"Michael Waltrip Racing wouldn't have existed through today without substantial and continued financial support from me," Kauffman said Friday before Sprint Cup practice at Bristol Motor Speedway. "From a business standpoint, that didn't make sense any longer. You can't have a top-10 budget and top-10 resources and not be in the top 10 for a sustained period of time.

"It's a performance-related business. It's all about performance. It's a great sport but a very difficult business model. From a business decision, it just made sense to not go forward with that organization, which is not commercially viable."

Kauffman said he would not say how much he has invested into the team since buying the team.

MWR expanded from two cars to three in 2012 when it added Bowyer, but that lasted only two years after Bowyer and MWR were embroiled in a race-manipulation scandal at Richmond in the final regular-season 2013 race.

Bowyer spun to bring out a late caution and teammate Brian Vickers entered pit road under green, allowing Martin Truex Jr. to earn enough points to make the Chase. NASCAR later docked all of MWR 50 points -- knocking Truex out of the Chase -- and fined MWR $300,000. Truex sponsor NAPA Auto Parts announced it would drop the MWR sponsorship a few weeks later, and MWR had to cut back to two teams.

MWR has not won a race since then.

"Certainly that was a pretty heavy body blow to our organization," Kauffman said. "It caused a big restructuring; 2014 was at some level a large reset year for everybody, also [on the] financial [side]. As we got into the late spring in 2015, from a performance standpoint, the company wasn't where it needed to be, and that kind of forced some decisions and thought processes over the summer."

Kauffman wouldn't say whether a three-car organization would have produced better results.

"My crystal ball, unfortunately, is not clear," Kauffman said. "In a parallel universe, I'm not sure what would have happened."

Bowyer, who was in his first year of a three-year extension, said he didn't believe the scandal could be blamed for the MWR demise. His car was virtually fully funded for next season, although MWR had not signed a deal for manufacturer support for next year nor sponsorship for its car currently driven by David Ragan and sponsored by Aaron's.

"It was two years ago," Bowyer said. "Since then, Rob and everybody in management has restructured, reorganized and we are a two-car team. We are not a three-car team. We're a two-car team, which by the way, was fully funded on my car moving forward.

"It was a business decision by Rob to do this. I am proud to work for MWR and work for Rob. I am happy for that experience."

Forbes estimated Kauffman's net worth at $1.8 billion in 2007, but he is no longer on the magazine's list of billionaires.