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Michael Waltrip Raceworld running out of gas

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Aug. 19. By Dave Yochum. It looks more and more like Michael Waltrip Raceworld, one of the cornerstones of motorsports and sports tourism in Cornelius, is going away.

Waltrip himself said it was a “great run that we’ve had,” fielding teams in the old Winston Cup Series dating back to 2002. He began his race team business at his house in Sherrills Ford in the mid-1990s.

Now there are more than 200 employees on site, making MWR one of the largest employers in Cornelius.

“We just have the perfect workplace,” Waltrip said in an interview on Fox Sports today. “My hope is somebody wants a really nice shop.”

Town Manager Anthony Roberts said economic development officials have toured the property—a prize piece of real estate near Exit 28—in recent weeks.

“Once we found out it may be for sale, we asked our Lake Norman EDC folks to take a peak at it and help market it and fill that void if it does go away…we want to be on top of our game, just in case it does,” Roberts said.

KAUFFMAN

KAUFFMAN

Michael Waltrip Racing and racing superstar Clint Bowyer have mutually agreed to separate at the conclusion of this season. Investor Rob Kaufman has steered his attentions and money to Chip Ganassi Racing in Concord, leaving MWR in a lurch.

Officials say the WMR property is a perfect piece of real estate for another race team, although not necessarily a Sprint team. In the hierarchy of racing, Sprint teams are at the top.

“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,” Waltrip said in a prepared statement.

At the impressive operation on Liverpool Parkway in Cornelius, employees were dusting off resumes and planning visits to other race shops, like the Joe Gibbs operation in Huntersville.

“There will be no racing Sprint Cup cars next year for us, which is all we do,” one MWR employee said. “My heart goes out to all the employees at MWR,” Waltrip said.

Sally Ashworth, the executive director of Visit Lake Norman, said MWR has been one of Lake Norman’s “signature tourism assets and a tremendous partner” for the regional convention and visitors bureau.
“We have partnered with MWR on numerous national/regional tourism impacting events with the use of their large meeting space for event registrations, tournament meetings, volunteer trainings, etc.  Their meeting space alone will be a huge void, not to mention the attraction appeal.  MWR, Joe Gibbs Racing and NASCAR are staples of the Lake Norman region and VLN along with the entire Lake Norman hospitality community are hopeful a solution remains and the team can stay intact,” Ashworth said.

Bowyer, currently 16th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase standings, will be free to pursue other career options in 2016 and beyond.

MWR will continue to field the No. 15 and No. 55 Toyotas for the remainder of the 2015 season. Kauffman said MWR will not field a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup entry in 2016.

Bowyer made this statement:

“I want to thank Michael, Rob and everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing that made these past four years special. 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.” – See more at: http://www.michaelwaltrip.com/news?n_id=783#sthash.jNg0Xlms.dpuf

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