Red Light For Haas-Carter

The end of the line for Haas-Carter Motorsports came Wednesday. The NASCAR Winston Cup team announced it was shutting down operations immediately and released its drivers and crewmen.

Haas-Carter started the 2002 season with lots of promise, as Joe Nemechek was added to the team to pair with Todd Bodine. But the season soon turned to gloom as sponsor Kmart announced it was filing for bankruptcy protection in late January.

“With the unfortunate filing of Chapter 11 by its primary sponsor Kmart Corporation just prior to the NASCAR season opener in Daytona, the timing could not have been worse for the team to find a replacement,” a team statement read Wednesday.

“It is with great sadness that Haas-Carter Motorsports releases its drivers and team members to pursue other Winston Cup opportunities as we realize this decision impacts families and friends.”

Co-owners Travis Carter and Carl Haas were not available for comment Wednesday, but team spokesman Mike Mooney said the decision to close was a difficult one.

“To them, financially it didn’t make sense to be racing any longer,” Mooney said. “It was just digging themselves in a deeper hole. They didn’t feel like they had the potential sponsors to help get them back out there once they did land something.

“It was a difficult decision. From Travis’ perspective, the business decision wasn’t that difficult. It was what it meant to the people in the shop that really hurt him the most.”

Mooney said “pretty much everyone” at Haas-Carter was laid off. Many crewmen were at the shop in Statesville, N.C. packing up tools and other personal items.

But the search for a sponsor for Haas-Carter’s teams would continue.

“They certainly are,” Mooney said. “It’s just that right now they need to get the cars off the track to not be spending any more money. They’re certainly going to be looking for sponsors. Travis has been doing this for 30 years. It’s all he knows, it’s all he wants to do. He has every reason to want to stay in the sport.”

Kmart stayed on the No. 26 of Nemechek and the No. 66 of Bodine for two races but was gone by Las Vegas. Bodine won the pole at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but it was too late. Bodine’s car was parked for the next three races, and Nemechek’s raced un-sponsored.

“Naturally we’re very disappointed, but we’re going to continue to pursue sponsorship for the Haas-Carter 26 car in the hopes that we can resume operations,” Nemechek said. “For now, I’m looking forward to enjoying the Easter holiday at home with my family.

In a sad twist of irony, Nemechek finished last in Haas-Carter’s final race, the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Nemechek had moved to Haas-Carter from Andy Petree Racing after that team lost its sponsor following the 2001 season.

Travis Carter formed his Winston Cup team in 1989 following a career as a crew chief. Rick Mast was Carter’s first driver. In 1999, Carl Haas joined Carter as co-owner, and the team fielded a two-car operation with Jimmy Spencer and Darrell Waltrip. Bodine replaced Waltrip last season.

The team never won a Winston Cup race, but Bodine and Spencer combined to win five poles last year – Carter’s first as a car owner.

Bodine wasn’t unemployed for long, as he secured a Busch Series ride with Herzog Jackson Motorsports. Nemechek owns his own Busch car, too, and will compete in 10 more races this year with Cellular One as the sponsor of his Chevy. That team doesn’t have plans to add to that total at this time, a team spokesperson said Wednesday.

“As for my Busch program, our next race will be the O’Reilly 300 at Texas Motor Speedway in two weeks,” said Nemechek, who was testing at Texas. “Including that race, we have 10 remaining this season with Cellular One.”

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