Nationwide Series team Rusty Wallace Racing has announced a suspension of its on-track activities, and released driver Michael Arnett to pursue other opportunities, after the loss of key sponsor 5-Hour Energy at the end of 2011. Around 35 team crew members were also let go.
"This was a tough decision to make, but it was the prudent one from a number of perspectives," said team owner Rusty Wallace in a team statement. "While we had several great partners - such as Pilot Flying J - on board for 2012, we just didn't feel like we had enough sponsorship in place to accomplish all of our goals."
RWR said that it would keep its business staff in place to pursue future sponsorship opportunities with the hope that the economic climate would allow them to return to the series in the future. The remaining existing sponsorship relationships would also be maintained, and the team will not be selling off its cars or any other racing assets.
In particular, the team is still trying to find funding for the team's second driver, Rusty's 24-year-old son Steve Wallace in the #66 car. For his part, Steve said that he agreed with his father's decision: "I would rather run ten races in the best equipment money could buy, than run the whole season in half-[baked] stuff, like I've been doing," he said.
"A lot of teams would have run with the level of funding we have now, but we want to ensure that our team has the resources necessary to compete and to improve our operations," explained Rusty Wallace. "I promised myself and my family long ago that if the team wasn't funded to a level with which we were comfortable, we just wouldn't run it. I've worked way too hard to put part of my life savings into a race team."
The team's former major backer, 5-Hour Energy, has now moved into sponsoring Sprint Cup competition in the form of Clint Bowyer's #15 car at Michael Waltrip Racing.
Wallace explained that since 5-Hour Energy's exit, he'd been under a huge amount of stress regarding the future of the team and was frankly relieved that the decision was finally made. "This was just occupying too much of my brain and I've never worked so hard in my life at something that doesn't make any money," Wallace explained. "My wife and I sat down and said, 'You know what, this is stressful.' It's hard on us. I haven't made any money on anything in Nationwide since 2004.
"It got to the point where I wasn't having any fun and it was too stressful. It's hard on us," he continued. "I do it because my family's in the business, I enjoy racing and I like to contribute to it. But there comes a point in time, right now, where I was getting too frustrated."
RWR is just the latest NASCAR team to hit funding problems in difficult economic times, with even top team Roush Fenway Racing having to downsize and lose the #6 car from its line-up. That put David Ragan out of a seat, although the car will at least run at the 2012 Daytona 500 with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. behind the wheel.