There was mixed news from the NASCAR Sprint Cup paddock this week, with the good news coming for Danica Patrick in the form of a multi-year contract extension with Stewart-Haas Racing and a brand new primary sponsor for 2016 to replace the exiting

Nature's Bakery, a rapidly-growing snacks and food brand headquartered in Reno, Nevada, will take pride of place on the livery of the #10 car for 28 of the 36 races of next year's Sprint Cup championship.

"It's an honour to represent Nature's Bakery and also a great deal of responsibility," Patrick said. "They have ambitious goals and they're going to rely on me and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing to deliver.

"I have ambitious goals too," she added. "It's why I came to NASCAR and, specifically, to Stewart-Haas Racing. There's still a lot I want to achieve in this sport and I'm looking to continue my professional journey with a brand as determined as I am."

"Danica has proven she belongs in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and we're very happy to have her a part of our team for years to come," said Tony Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing. "Nature's Bakery is a natural fit with Danica. She has played an important role in the growth of all the businesses associated with her and our growth as a race team. Our partnership with Nature's Bakery is all about growing their business. In Danica, we have the best possible person to help Nature's Bakery achieve its goals."

But the good news for Patrick was offset by news of the worst kind from Michael Waltrip Racing, which confirmed on Wednesday that it was closing its Sprint Cup operation and would not be competing full time in next year's championship.

Currently the team fields two full-time drivers, Clint Bowyer in the #15 car and David Ragan who took over the wheel of the #55 entry from Brian Vickers who was ruled out of competition on medical grounds earlier this season. Both Bowyer and Ragan will now have to seek alternative race seats for next year, in a market that has very few vacancies.

"I felt it was important to make an announcement as soon as we had clarity, so that is what we are doing today," said team owner Rob Kauffman, who recently bought a stake in the Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates race team. "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 organisation," Kauffman added. "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."

Kauffman said that MWR will continue to field the #15 and #55 Toyotas for the remainder of this season but confirmed that the team will not field any full-time entry in 2016 and that Bowyer, currently 16th in the points standings, will be free to pursue other career options in 2016 and beyond.

"Rob joined MWR in 2007 and has helped give us the resources to build a competitive race team," said Michael Waltrip. "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.

"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."

"I want to thank Michael, Rob and everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing that made these past four years special," responded Bowyer. "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."



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