- Bob Pockrass, NASCAR
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Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman, in his first public comments beyond a statement Thursday that he had purchased an interest in Chip Ganassi Racing, said Saturday the move is an attempt to put more competitive race teams out on the track.
MWR does not have a manufacturer contract nor a sponsor for its No. 55 car signed for 2016. The most likely scenario appears for Ganassi to expand to a three-car Chevrolet team with Kauffman bringing driver Clint Bowyer and sponsor 5-Hour Energy to that stable.
Bowyer is 15th in the Sprint Cup standings while MWR driver David Ragan, who took over the seat of the No. 55 car in May, is 24th. Ganassi is a two-car operation with drivers Jamie McMurray [ninth in the standings] and Kyle Larson [20th] with the majority of its sponsor, driver and manufacturer deals already set for 2016. The two organizations will operate separately for the remainder of 2015.
"In terms of our plans, whether we have three cars, four cars, two roofs, one roof -- that's all yet to be determined," Kauffman told reporters Saturday at Pocono Raceway. "How we do in the 2015 season will help to determine whether that happens.
"If we do a great job, that will be one outcome. If we do a less great job, probably another. I think it's pretty obvious."
Kauffman bought a 50 percent interest in MWR in 2007, the first year in Sprint Cup for the team owned by driver Michael Waltrip and an organization at the time on the brink of going out of business.
"It is a competitive business, as everybody knows," Kauffman said. "It is competitive on-track as well as off-track. ... You're going to see more consolidation along the way. As businesses mature, you're going to see, like in many industries, a lot of consolidation.
"In fact today, I would say there aren't really any one- or two-car teams that aren't affiliated with much larger organizations. The day you could have a lone wolf be in this sport are long past."
Kauffman also is chairman of the Race Team Alliance, a coalition of most of the Sprint Cup owners that is working with NASCAR on ways to create long-term equity for teams as well as using the combined power of the owners to leverage better deals with potential sponsors and vendors.
"It's very difficult for the teams to maintain a sensible business model," said Kauffman, a wealthy businessman who retired in 2012 from the successful private equity Fortress Investment Group that he helped co-found in 1998. "That's probably why the impetus of the Race Team Alliance was formed, to help reorganize the teams and focus them on improving the business model together with NASCAR and our other partners. We're making some good progress on that."