Michael Waltrip Racing appears to be on life support going into next season.
Maybe it will survive the purge and find a way out of this nebulous, and rather foreboding, state of affairs.
It's never a good day at the office when a co-owner announces he is buying an undisclosed share with a rival team. News of Rob Kauffman's partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in 2016 underscores the plight of the smaller teams trying to compete with NASCAR's monsters of the midway such as Hendrick Motor Sports and Joe Gibbs Racing.
The most pertinent question for MWR is whether Clint Bowyer will be back. MWR's Bowyer and David Ragan are struggling to make the Chase. Bowyer is 14th. Ragan is 24th. Each are winless.
One or both of those drivers probably need to qualify for the Chase for MWR to remain open for business.
"Our business model doesn't work without us making the Chase," Waltrip said. "We invest in our cars and our team and we tell our sponsors that with the way we built our team, we're going to make the Chase, we're going to win races."
"On the business side, it's very difficult for the teams to maintain a sensible business model," Kaufman said. "I think you're going to see more consolidation along the way here."
Kaufman is simply a survivalist, saddling up to a stronger team with drivers (Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson) who have a stronger competitive shot with better resources.
Meanwhile, it's all limbo land for a lot of employees at Michael Waltrip Racing, most notably Bowyer.
"There's obviously some change on the horizon," Bowyer said at Pocono. "I got the same release you guys did. . . . Like I said, there's a lot of work to be done in the future, and we're all working on it and when I have something to tell you guys, you all know me and I'll tell you."
Some will wag their fingers and insist this is all part of cosmic payback for the shenanigans that the team pulled in Richmond in 2013, trying to game the system so that then-MWR driver Martin Truex Jr. would qualify for the Chase.
He did, ever so briefly, before the manipulative actions of Bowyer (causing a caution intentionally) were exposed.
I suggest nefarious karma isn't in play. It's the price of doing business in NASCAR these days.
The strong survive. The others become roadkill.
Safety in spotlight
NASCAR's evolving safety model will be in play the next time the circuit comes to Pocono, site of separate pit road incidents in which cars hit the wall that separates the pit stalls from the crews.
"We'll work with the track," NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O'Donnell said this week on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "We already have got a plan in place to look at extending that pit wall. We certainly have got to make sure that by doing that you put the proper protection for the race cars and the drivers coming off of [the turn]."
The first incident took place on Saturday, when Jeb Burton hit the wall during practice Saturday. The next day, Kasey Kahne lost control, just missing the barrier separating the racing surface from pit road. He slid into the pit wall at a high speed. Fortunately, no one was injured in either crash.
"I couldn't believe I was . . . heading towards pit wall," Kahne said. "Then I saw the people and I thought to myself that those guys need to take off running and get out of the way."
Pocono will not host another NASCAR race this season, but an IndyCar race will be staged there on Aug. 23.
Busch takes break
Kyle Busch is skipping the Xfinity Series road-course race at Watkins Glen this weekend, all part of the healing process following the significant leg injuries he sustained at the start of the season at Daytona.
"I feel like there's times when I get out of the car just putting weight back in my feet sometimes it hurts after race days and stuff like that," said Busch, who will still compete in the Cup Series race of course but will cede his ride to Boris Said.
"With Watkins Glen coming up, that's going to be another hard one to get through," Busch said. "That's going to be a tough challenge for myself and the left foot, but we'll make it and I'm sure we'll be OK, just like Sonoma. It will be sore on Monday afterwards and we'll continue to ice it and make it feel better."
Busch has been crazy good as of late. He had a great shot to win the Cup race at Pocono, but he ran out of gas on the closing laps. He ended up finishing 21st — a blow but not a damaging one.
He is only 13 points behind 30th place and a guaranteed spot in the Chase.
"I didn't know we were that close," Busch said. "I wish that maybe I had a little bit better heads up, but I can't fault these guys for trying and going for broke."
Rolling with Vegas
It will be Viva Las Vegas again for NASCAR this winter.
NASCAR announced earlier this week the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards will return to Las Vegas in 2015 as part of a renewed partnership. The awards program will headline NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion's Week at Wynn Las Vegas on Dec. 4.