Turner Motorsports has booted Reed Sorenson from his ride to "evaluate" the Nationwide Series program despite Sorenson being third in points, the team announced Tuesday afternoon.
Earlier Tuesday, Turner said it has notified its employees of a potential downsize at the end of the season, citing the departure of sponsor Dollar General and the "current economic climate" facing the organization.
Currently fielding teams in the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, Turner Motorsports becomes the latest team in NASCAR to likely cut jobs at the end of the year.
Sorenson's job loss was certainly a surprise. Brian Vickers will take over the No. 32 car for the next two races.
"Brian Vickers is a proven winner at NASCAR's highest level in addition to being a driver at Turner Motorsports over the last four seasons," Turner said. "...We are confident Brian can help assess where we are, as a company currently, and the direction we are going as we build our programs for 2012 and beyond."
The team said in a separate statement it is continuing to pursue sponsorship for next season and are "hopeful the action will become unnecessary" if the proper funding is found.
Among the other teams that have already announced cuts or potential layoffs are Germain Racing and Kevin Harvick Inc.
Germain Racing appears committed to building its Sprint Cup Series program with driver Casey Mears and sponsor GEICO, but it is uncertain if the team's Camping World Truck Series program – which fields four trucks, including that of defending series champion Todd Bodine – will continue in 2012.
Kevin Harvick announced last month his Nationwide Series program would merge with Richard Childress Racing, while his Truck program was acquired by Eddie Sharp Racing. Harvick said his employees would have the chance to interview with the new organization, but did not guarantee employment.
While the cuts have hit the lower series in NASCAR, the Sprint Cup Series may not be immune to the layoffs. The future of Red Bull Racing is uncertain, and employees are jumping ship. Not only is Kasey Kahne joining Hendrick Motorsports for 2012, but technical director John Probst is leaving for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and Vickers' public relations representative Jayme Christianson joined NASCAR's Integrated Marketing Communications team.
With the economic situation in the country stagnating at best, few new sponsors are finding their way into NASCAR and those already involved are looking to maximize their return on investment by partnering with Sprint Cup drivers and organizations.
Despite that, Harvick said last week he felt teams are using the economy "as more of an excuse as anything."