Interim driver hoping to continue in No. 55 ride RELATED: Toyota not sure what MWR will do BRISTOL, Tenn. -- David Ragan , 10 starts into his role as driver of the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 Toyota, said he's yet to speak with MWR officials, or anyone else, about his future role with the organization. Ragan joined MWR earlier this season after a nine-race stint with Joe Gibbs Racing as interim driver for the No. 18 team of Kyle Busch . His first start of the year, the Daytona 500 in February, came with Front Row Motorsports . "I haven't talked about next year with anybody for anything," Ragan said before the start of an open test on Wednesday at Bristol Motor Speedway. "In regards to some of the rumors that are out there, I've read just like everybody else has online, but all I can do is the best I can do week in and week out and hopefully everything will take care of themselves." Ragan qualified third for the second consecutive race this past weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was his fourth top-10 start in the past five races. However, he has only two finishes inside the top 15 since joining the team in a relief role for driver Brian Vickers , who remains sidelined due to medical issues. Aaron's, a long-time MWR sponsor and currently the primary sponsor for the No. 55 entry, has yet to announce its plans beyond the 2015 season. In addition to the No. 55, MWR also fields the No. 15 Sprint Cup entry with driver Clint Bowyer . Sponsorship is provided by 5-hour ENERGY and both Bowyer and the sponsor are in the first year of multi-year agreements with the organization. Ragan, 29, is a two-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series. His first win came in July of 2011 at Daytona with Roush Fenway Racing . In 2013, he put Front Row Motorsports in Victory Lane for the first time when he won at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. MWR is said to be considering a split from Toyota, which has provided engines and technical support to the organization since the automaker moved into Sprint Cup in 2007. Dave Wilson, President & General Manager, Toyota Racing Development, USA, told NASCAR.com that he did not know if the relationship with MWR would continue beyond 2015. In the meantime, Ragan said he would like to remain at MWR going forward if that is an option. "I like everyone at MWR and the Aaron's folks have been great to work with," he said. "We've got a good thing going ... hopefully we can keep it going. That'd be fun." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Before the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM), the NASCAR Sprint Cup pilots came out during driver introductions to songs they chose. Check out the list below in the order they were introduced, starting with last-place qualifier Mike Bliss and ending with Coors Light Pole Award winner Denny Hamlin . 43rd place) Mike Bliss - "Hells Bells" by AC/DC 42nd place) Matt DiBenedetto - "I Love Rock 'n Roll" by Joan Jett 41st place) Timmy Hill - "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" by Silento 40th place) Tony Stewart - "Smoke On The Water" by Deep Purple 39th place) Landon Cassill - "Smooth" by Santana 38th place) J.J. Yeley - "Devil in Disguise" by Elvis Presley 37th place) David Gilliland - Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue 36th place) Alex Bowman - "Bring Me The Horizon" by Throne 35th place) Michael Annett - "Bernie Lean" by Bernie Dance 34th place) Josh Wise - "Dixieland Delight" by Alabama 33rd place) Cole Whitt - "Armor For The Lord" by Blake Whiteley 32nd place) Danica Patrick - "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner 31st place) Aric Almirola - "I Can't Drive 55" by Sammy Hagar 30th place Michael McDowell "Nothing I Can't Do" by Tedashii 29th place) Paul Menard - "Symphony of Destruction" by Megadeth 28th place Casey Mears "Fuel" by Metallica 27th place) Brett Moffitt - "Cowboy" by Kid Rock 26th place) Sam Hornish Jr . - "Touch of Grey" by Grateful Dead 25th place) AJ Allmendinger - "Tainted Love" by Marilyn Manson 24th place) Jeff Gordon - "E.I." by Nelly 23rd place) Martin Truex Jr . - "La Grange" by ZZ Top 22nd place) Trevor Bayne - "Back Where I Come From" by Kenny Chesney 21st place) Jamie McMurray - "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith 20th place) Dale Earnhardt Jr . - "Eminence Front" by The Who 19th place) Kasey Kahne - "Cherry Bomb" by John Mellencamp 18th place) Ryan Newman - "Good Ol' Boys" by Waylon Jennings 17th place) Greg Biffle - "Wild Side" by Motley Crue 16th place) Austin Dillon - "Move" by Ludacris 15th place) Ryan Blaney - "Even Flow" by Pearl Jam 14th place) Justin Allgaier - "Ready Set Roll" by Chase Rice 13th place) Matt Kenseth - "Stife" by Trivium 12th place) Kyle Larson - "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)" by Elton John 11th place) Kurt Busch - "Party Up (Up In Here)" by DMX 10th place) Jimmie Johnson - "Renegades" by X Ambassadors 9th place) Clint Bowyer - "Going Through the Big D" by Mark Chesnutt 8th place) Ricky Stenhouse Jr . - "The Stroke" by Billy Squier 7th place) Kevin Harvick - "Real Life" by Jake Owen 6th place) Brad Keselowski - "Drop It Like It's Hot" by Snoop Dogg 5th place) Joey Logano - "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" by Dropkick Murphys 4th place) David Ragan - "Only In America" by Brooks and Dunn 3rd place) Carl Edwards - "Juke Box Hero" by Foreigner 2nd place) Kyle Busch - DJ Barry 1st place) Denny Hamlin - "Heart Upon My Sleeve" by Avicii
RELATED: Co-owner of MWR buys interest in CGR MORE: Kauffman: 'We're integrating the businesses' Michael Waltrip Racing , one of the charter Toyota teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, announced Wednesday that it will part ways with driver Clint Bowyer at year's end and that it plans to cease its full-time racing schedule after the 2015 season. RELATED: Bowyer free to pursue other opportunities for 2016 MWR said in a statement that it will continue to field cars for Bowyer, who has been with the No. 15 team since 2012, and David Ragan , interim driver for Brian Vickers in the No. 55, through the rest of the season. The move comes on the heels of MWR principal owner Rob Kauffman's confirmation Aug. 1 that he had purchased an ownership stake in Chevrolet team Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. "MWR will race hard and compete for the remainder of the 2015 season," Kauffman said in a release provided by the team. "This decision was made after weighing several different options and scenarios. I felt it was important to make an announcement as soon as we had clarity, so that is what we are doing today. I want to thank all of our staff, partners, sponsors and fans for all their effort and support over the years. " 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. 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." The decision makes Bowyer, an eight-time winner in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition, a sought-after free agent for 2016. Three of his victories came in 2012, when he finished a career-best second in the final championship standings. "I want to thank Michael, Rob and everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing that made these past four years special," Bowyer said. "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." Michael Waltrip Racing made its full-fledged debut in 2007, bringing the Toyota Camry banner into the sport. The team featured Waltrip as driver/owner, former premier series champion Dale Jarrett and David Reutimann . MWR has seven victories in NASCAR's top division, the first with Reutimann in the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 in 2009. "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," Michael Waltrip said Wednesday. "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." The Waltrip-owned team scaled back its operations from three full-time teams to two after the 2013 season, which was marked by a race-manipulation scandal surrounding MWR in the regular-season finale and the ensuing departure of Martin Truex Jr . and longtime sponsor NAPA. Waltrip talked a bit about the news at the start of FOX Sports 1's broadcast of final NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice Wednesday at Bristol. "It's a sad day for MWR obviously. I love the culture we've built there. You know, our sponsors, they're not sponsors; they're partners, and our employees are our teammates," Waltrip said. "We just have the perfect workplace, and unfortunately in 2016, we're not going to be racing there. My hope is somebody wants to have a really nice shop full of really cool people that work together well and want to have a race team and we can provide that for them. "But Rob's going to be a part of Chip Ganassi Racing going forward. Rob and I are best of buddies. He's done an amazing job of stabilizing MWR in the beginning and then we raced for a championship, finished second in 2012. So my heart goes out to all the employees, all the people that work at MWR, and hopefully somebody wants to have a team and they can have it right there at our place." Asked how hard it was to make this transition with MWR after starting the company behind his house, Waltrip revisited some of the history of his company. "Our first race was here in 1994 with Jeff Green . We towed in here with Ronnie Silver a flatbed trailer, unloaded our car and ran third that day. Won Nationwide, XFINITY races behind our house and competed in the Cup Series. We made the Daytona 500 with Kenny Wallace in a car we built in Sherrill's Ford behind my house. That grew to Michael Waltrip Racing, and we raced for a championship like I said. Chase berths, race wins. I'm thankful. I'm happy. It's a great run that we've had. We'll just see what's next."
RELATED: Full results from Bristol " Updated standings BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Kevin Harvick became the first driver since 1972 to post double-digit runner-up finishes during the course of a season Saturday night, trailing race winner Joey Logano across the finish line in the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion had to overcome two pit road penalties to put himself in contention for the win, but was unable to reel in the Team Penske driver in the closing laps of the 500-lap event. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver took the disappointment of another near-win in stride. He's had worse finishes that weren't "near as cool as finishing second," he said. "I'm not frustrated at all because I've been on the other side of this fence, and you'd give everything in the world to finish second every week because it's not easy. This is a hard sport, and to go to all these different types of race tracks and see the success that the team has, I couldn't be prouder … because I know that at any moment you can rattle off two or three wins in a row at any type of race track, so it's fun." No driver had posted 10 or more runner-up finishes in a single season since Bobby Allison managed the feat in '72. Harvick became just the eighth driver to do so, joining Allison, David Pearson, Richard Petty, Ned Jarrett, Dick Rathmann, Joe Weatherly and Buck Baker. Pearson holds the overall mark, registering 18 second-place results in 1969. Harvick failed to lead a lap at BMS, but not for lack of trying. Starting seventh, the Sprint Cup Series champion had driven up to fourth by Lap 126 when Kyle Larson brought out the second caution of the night. But a violation for crewmen coming over the wall too soon dropped the No. 4 Chevrolet back to 22nd on the ensuing restart. He had raced his way back inside the top 10 by the halfway point of the race, and was in the top five at Lap 350. But another penalty, this one for speeding on pit road, dropped him back outside the top 10. With less than 70 laps remaining, Harvick was third on a final restart, taking second from Logano's teammate, Brad Keselowski , when the race resumed. "He (Logano) was just one step ahead of me in traffic," Harvick said of his attempts to track down Logano. "I couldn't get my car to rotate across the center like I needed it to, and every time I tried to force it, it would snap the back out." Logano called it "a very exciting last 20, 30 laps for sure." "I really thought we were going to be able to pull away because I thought we were really good in the long run, and then we didn't pull away," Logano said. "And I was like, ‘uh-oh.'" After the race, Rodney Childers, crew chief for Harvick, said he still didn't understand how his driver could get hit with a speeding penalty when driver Denny Hamlin wasn't cited for excessive speed. "He (Hamlin) was pushing us around the corner," Childers said. "(Kevin) said his speed went up like 300 RPM when he was pushing him. He was like, ‘Oh God, this is going to be close.' And we were speeding." Otherwise, Childers said, it was another good night for the defending champions. "The team overcame a lot of adversity this weekend, which is a plus getting ready for the Chase," he said. "We had a clutch problem this morning and had to change the master cylinder, the clutch … all kinds of stuff. Then to go through what we went through in the race and fight back. "The biggest thing is just Kevin drove his butt off to get back up there and everybody did a good job overcoming it." Runner-up finishes in a season Number Driver Year 18 David Pearson 1969 15 Bobby Allison 1970 14 Richard Petty 1964 13 Ned Jarrett 1965 12 Bobby Allison 1972 12 David Pearson 1968 12 Joe Weatherly 1962 12 Dick Rathmann 1953 10 Kevin Harvick 2015 10 Buck Baker 1958
RELATED: Complete starting lineup BRISTOL, Tenn. -- If it's pole day in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Joe Gibbs Racing must be celebrating. Denny Hamlin powered his No. 11 Toyota around .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway in 14.602 seconds (131.407 mph) on Friday to win the pole for Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race (on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. ET). In breaking Kevin Harvick 's August 2014 track qualifying record by .005 seconds, Hamlin won his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his third at Bristol and the 22nd of his career. JGR swept the top three spots in qualifying for the second straight week, having accomplished the feat last Saturday on the two-mile track at Michigan International Speedway. The pole was JGR's fifth straight on an oval track ( AJ Allmendinger , in a JTG Daugherty Chevrolet, claimed the top starting spot for the Aug. 9 race on the road course at Watkins Glen). Hamlin edged teammate Kyle Busch (131.263 mph) by .016 seconds. Carl Edwards (130.655 mph) took the third starting spot, followed by David Ragan in a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota (130.460 mph) and Joey Logano in a Team Penske Ford (130.344 mph). Hamlin also won the pole for Friday night's NASCAR XFINITY Series race. "To have that two nights in a row here is hopefully going to pay dividends," Hamlin said. "We're excited. Bristol's been a great track for me in the past, and we've got nothing to lose this weekend, just gearing up for the Chase, so I think our FedEx team's ready." Hamlin has a victory at Bristol in addition to his two poles, and with a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup position guaranteed by virtue of his victory at Martinsville in April, he can go all-out for a win on Saturday night without fear of consequences. Busch fought handling issues in the final two rounds of knockout qualifying and went for broke on his final attempt in the last round. "We were just a little too free there the second segment and the first run of the third segment," Busch said. "It's a little edgy up there, so you try not to push too hard, but still make a good lap and come back safely. "Then there at the end we tried a ‘Hail Mary' and it worked. It picked us up speed, but it didn't pick us up that spot." Brad Keselowski , Kevin Harvick , Ricky Stenhouse Jr . Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson grabbed the sixth through 10th spots on the grid, respectively. The qualifying effort was Stenhouse's best of the year. Jeff Gordon will start 24th in his last race at Bristol as a full-time Sprint Cup driver. Travis Kvapil , Jeb Burton and Reed Sorenson failed to make the 43-car field.
Practice 2 " Complete final practice results After coming in third in opening practice, Kyle Busch 's No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota rocketed around Bristol Motor Speedway and to the top of the leaderboard in Friday's second practice session. "Rowdy" recorded a fast lap of 131.146 mph, a speed that rivals the previous qualifying track record Kevin Harvick set in 2014 (131.362 mph). David Ragan made a late run to earn the second spot on the leaderboard, maneuvering his No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota at 130.646 mph around the short track. Having led the opening practice, Kyle Larson 's fast lap of 130.018 mph allowed him to spend some time at the top of the leaderboard before setting for third on the board in his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet. Team Penske 's Joey Logano came up next, wheeling a fast lap of 129.587 mph for the fourth position, while Joe Gibbs Racing 's Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five (129.404 mph). Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick posted the sixth-fastest speed, recording a high speed of 129.334 mph in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Jimmie Johnson , Martin Truex Jr ., Aric Almirola and Jeb Burton all experienced trouble in the opening session, but were back on track in the final session. Johnson led the corral, posting the ninth-fastest speed (129.073 mph) in his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, while Martin Truex Jr .'s No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet was 21st (127.724 mph). Several drivers attempted qualifying runs during the second session, bringing several drivers' speeds up from the previous session. The Sprint Cup Series is back on track tonight at Bristol at 5:45 p.m. for Coors Light Pole Qualifying (NBCSN). Practice 1: Complete opening practice results Kyle Larson surged to the top of the leaderboard in the final minute of Friday's Sprint Cup practice at Bristol Motor Speedway, propelling his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet around the short track at 129.833 mph to lead the session. Matt Kenseth also made a late run, briefly topping the leaderboard before settling into second with a fast lap of 128.597 mph from his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. The leader for the majority of the hour-and-a-half session, Kyle Busch came up third after Kenseth's late run. "Rowdy" wheeled his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota around the short track at 128.580 mph. Michael Waltrip Racing 's Clint Bowyer (128.099 mph) and Joe Gibbs Racing 's Carl Edwards (127.707 mph) rounded out the top five. Wheeling the iconic No. 24 rainbow paint scheme at 126.637 mph, Jeff Gordon posted the 14th-fastest speed in the field. Chase Elliott , who will take Gordon's place in the No. 24 ride next season, watched Gordon from the top of the No. 24 hauler following his own XFINITY practice. Jimmie Johnson missed 38 minutes of the practice after his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet got up high on the track and made contact with the wall nine minutes into the session. He returned to the track and posted the 18th-fastest speed. Jeb Burton and Aric Almirola also hit the wall during the session. Martin Truex Jr . slammed into the wall in the final 10 minutes of practice, forcing the No. 78 team to bring out the backup car.
RELATED: Bowyer free to pursue 2016 opportunities MORE: MWR won't field full-time team in 2016 BRISTOL, Tenn. – Clint Bowyer said his racing future "is uncertain right now" as he prepares to finish out the season with Michael Waltrip Racing before an expected move to a new employer in 2016. Earlier this week, MWR officials announced Bowyer, 36, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series organization had "mutually agreed" to end their relationship at the conclusion of the '15 season. The two-team outfit, which fields the No. 55 Toyota for driver David Ragan in addition to the No. 15 of Bowyer, will not field a full-time Sprint Cup effort next year. "It's a tough time for everybody involved," Bowyer said Friday morning at Bristol Motor Speedway, site of Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "It's unfortunate. "The truth is we're eight months into a three-year commitment to one another. I had a great four years at this company; great culture, great personnel at MWR. I really did enjoy the years that I spent there. "That being said Rob (Kauffman, MWR co-owner) ... invested a lot into this sport. It's a business decision to move forward on his end. That's where our futures ... unfortunately just don't align anymore." WATCH: Bowyer, Kauffman expound on MWR split The timing of the announcement was crucial, Bowyer said, to allow employees at MWR to understand and digest the situation and focus on the remainder of the '15 season. "These employees ... are real people, with real lives with real families and a lot at stake," he said. "They are racers, just like I am. But the racer in you doesn't change the reality side of life. And the reality is you need to provide for your family. "I thought it was extremely important ... to get in front of that and I owed it to these employees to get this done as soon as possible, even knowing where we're at on the bubble and everything in the Chase. I think being honest and straightforward and doing that for these people in the long run will set them up to make the most out of a difficult situation." Bowyer is an eight-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series, with three of those wins coming with MWR, which he joined in 2012. He finished a career-best second in the Chase for the Sprint Cup battle in his first year with the organization. W ATCH: Rob Kauffman about MWR, Bowyer decisions Heading into Saturday night's race at BMS, Bowyer is 15th in points with one top-five and nine top-10 finishes. Eleven of the 16 available Chase slots have been secured (as long as those drivers remain in the top 30 in points), leaving Bowyer and a handful of others battling for one of the five remaining positions. As for what the 2016 season and beyond may hold, Bowyer appears to be keeping all options open at this point. "Absolutely," he said. "... What I'm going to have in the future ... will be another announcement and I'll tell you as soon as possible. It's as simple as that. "I'm confident in the sport, I love this sport and the sport has been good to me and my family -- (I've) had a lot of great partners and a lot of great organizations that I've worked for, and I see no reason why somebody that works hard and wants it like I do ... can't have a job for as long as they want." PHOTOS: MWR through the years
RELATED: See all 43 cars " Full starting lineup The pit stall assignments are out for Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, and Coors Light Pole Award Winner Denny Hamlin got to pick first on where he will pit. Hamlin chose pit stall 1 on the front stretch to service his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota; which is the first pit stall off pit road leading into Turn 1. Second-place qualifier Kyle Busch , in the No. 18 Toyota, has the first pit stall coming off the back stretch, heading into Turn 3 of the short track. Carl Edwards (starting third) will pit in the 22nd pit stall, the first stall coming onto pit road on the front stretch, David Ragan 's No. 55 Toyota (starting fourth) will be pitting in the 43rd pit stall, the first coming onto pit road on the back stretch. Hamlin and Busch are the only two with openings in front of their stalls. The Irwin Tools Night Race (500 laps, 266.6 miles) is on Saturday, August 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN/Live Extra, MRN, SiriusXM)
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Rob Kauffman, the former investment banker who stepped in to keep Michael Waltrip Racing afloat with an influx of financial support in 2007, said this week's move to end full-time competition for MWR in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series after the 2015 season was a "financial decision." "I think that from a business standpoint it didn't make sense. 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," Kauffman said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kauffman co-owns the Cornelius, North Carolina-based organization along with former driver Michael Waltrip . MWR fields the No. 15 Toyota for driver Clint Bowyer as well as the No. 55 for driver David Ragan . The organization has approximately 250 employees. Bowyer hasn't won in the series since 2012, the same year he finished runner-up to Brad Keselowski in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup . He finished seventh overall the following year, then failed to qualify for the 10-race playoff last season. Heading into Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Bowyer is 15th in points with one top-five and nine top-10 finishes this season. He can qualify for the Chase by either winning one of the three remaining "regular-season" races or possibly earning a berth based on his points position. Ragan was brought in after the season's first 10 races as a replacement after Brian Vickers , the team's former driver, was sidelined due to health issues. Ragan is currently 24th in points. The last victory for the organization came with Vickers and the No. 55 team at Loudon, New Hampshire in 2013. "It's a performance-related business," Kauffman said. "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 isn't really commercially viable." MWR receives technical and engineering support from Toyota and that assistance was expected to continue for the 2016 season. On the sponsorship front, 5-hour Energy signed a multiyear extension last season to serve as primary sponsor for 24 of 36 races with Bowyer. Aaron's, sponsor of the No. 55, had yet to announce its 2016 plans, but the company has been affiliated with Waltrip for 15 years. The organization fielded three full-time teams in 2012-13 but cut back to two after 2013 after penalties for manipulating the finish of a race at Richmond International Raceway resulted in the loss of NAPA as a primary sponsor. "Certainly that was a pretty heavy body blow to the organization, causing me to restructure it," Kauffman said. The following season "was at some level a large reset year, competitively and also financially. "I think as we got into the late spring, April, May (of) 2015, really 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. "That's kind of where we wound up today. At the end of the day, it's a competitive business and that's where we are." In late July, it was announced that Kauffman had agreed to purchase an interest in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. That organization fields two Sprint Cup Series teams, for drivers Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson . It fields entries in IndyCar, the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship and Global RallyCross Series as well. "Certainly the past years I've been pretty involved in the day-to-day operations with Michael Waltrip Racing ," said Kauffman. "I think now I'll be able to step back from that. "I'm probably not the best person to run a race team day in and day out. One of the attractions in partnering with Chip is really he runs his business himself; he's a racer, he's at a race event almost every single weekend." Kauffman is a racer as well, having competed in events such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2011-'12) and the Rolex 24 at Daytona ('12-'13).
RELATED: Full results from Bristol " Updated standings BRISTOL, Tenn. -- After the tumultuous week that was for Michael Waltrip Racing , the embattled team was neatly set up for a double ray of Saturday night sunshine in the sport's most prestigious nighttime event. The much-needed shot in the arm wound up being a split decision at Bristol Motor Speedway, owing to a doubly unfortunate late-race collision between the organization's two teammates. Clint Bowyer 's determined drive in Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race wrapped up a fifth-place finish, the No. 15 Toyota team's fourth top-10 effort in the last five events and a solidifying boost to his Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs footing. Teammate David Ragan -- poised to join his teammate in the front-running quintet -- exited early, catching the worst of the Lap 371 tangle that dented both MWR entries. RELATED: See what happened to Ragan "Damn, you hate to have two good cars and the last person you want to get into and have trouble with is your teammate," Bowyer said. "I've been sick to death about that. We had two top-five cars and MWR really needed that run." Michael Waltrip Racing announced Wednesday that it would cease its full schedule of Sprint Cup participation at season's end, granting Bowyer his release. But in the same announcement, team co-owner Rob Kauffman stressed that "MWR will race hard and compete for the remainder of the 2015 season." RELATED: MWR won't field full-time entries in 2016 Both Bowyer and Ragan clearly took the "race hard" portion of the statement to heart, putting both cars into the top 10 of the starting lineup. Ragan moved as high as third in the running order, picking up six spots on a long green-flag run after the 500-lapper's midway point. That charge placed him right behind Bowyer, who stormed into the top five after a series of early gains. The high hopes went haywire, though, just four laps after a Lap 368 restart. Bowyer and Ragan bottled up on the low side of Jimmie Johnson 's No. 48 Chevrolet, which forced the two MWR cars to make contact in a three-abreast clash at the exit of Turn 2. Ragan's No. 55 Toyota spun low, resulting in severe contact with the inside retaining wall. Bowyer righted himself and continued, but made contact with Brad Keselowski 's No. 2 Ford at the end of the straightaway, looping the No. 15. From there, Bowyer was able to stay on the lead lap and methodically rally again, edging Keselowski for the last spot among the top five. "We desperately needed a solid run right there," Bowyer said. "I mean, obviously, you're hungry for a win with this organization giving everything it had. I drove my ass off. It just ... we just came up short. I’m really proud of all of these guys on the 5-hour Energy Toyota. They're digging, man. It's fun to be a part of this. It's fun to be a part of a group that can answer the call when you gotta dig down and reach down a little bit more to get in that Chase and be a part of that elite group. These guys are up for the challenge." The outcome was more disheartening for Ragan, who was closing in on his first top-five or top-10 since joining Michael Waltrip Racing as an interim driver in May. "It's uncalled for to get wrecked and to be involved in a wreck like that but all in all just one of those racing things," Ragan said. "… Anytime you're in that top five or with a chance to win, it's disappointing. This is one of my favorite races and we did the best we could." MWR's silver lining, though, came from Bowyer, who improved his grip on the 16th and final berth in the provisional Chase grid. His top-five allowed him to increase his margin from 23 to 35 points over nearest challenger Aric Almirola , Saturday night's 17th-place finisher. Though the No. 15 team is mindful of what it needs to become playoff-eligible in the remaining two regular-season races, crew chief Billy Scott said the crew hasn't let it alter their strategy or outlook. "We try to put that on the back burner," Scott said. "Until Richmond, it really doesn't matter. All you can do is look after yourself and get the best finish we can right now. When we get down to the last few at Richmond, it might matter with your strategy a little bit to keep an eye on where they are, but if we keep doing what we need to, it'll take care of itself."