September 17, 2013
Richmond Race Controversy Leads NASCAR To Issue Penalties
In a recent post about the Richmond race that was held on Saturday night, September 7, I touched on the final laps of the race that sparked several controversies. The Richmond race is probably one of, if not the, most important races of the year.
It is race 26 and the determining factor on who makes the chase for the championship. The chase is racing’s playoff, with twelve drivers in the field of 43 that fight for the trophy.
This year, the final laps were filled with controversy. The Clint Bowyer spin and Joey Logano’s apparent deal making with another team was the center of attention. NASCAR reviewed the final laps, listened to radio communications and as a result issued penalties, fines, suspensions, and even expanded the chase field to thirteen.
What happened in the race, with seven laps to go, is that Ryan Newman was leading and had enough distance on second place that he was sure to win. By winning, it would put him in the final chase spot. However, Clint Bowyer spun and a caution was issued. The drivers went into the pits, but Newman had a slow stop and came out fifth for the restart and was only able to gain two spots to finish third. This put Martin Truex Jr. into the final spot in the chase instead of Newman.
In reviewing the events of the final laps, NASCAR determined the spin was intentional and issued severe penalties to Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) for manipulating the outcome of a race. The penalties were issued on Monday, September 9. They include all three teams of MWR, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., and Brian Vickers, being docked 50 driver points and 50 owner points. This resulted in Truex moving down to seventeenth in the points and eliminating him from the chase, giving the spot back to Ryan Newman, who would have won the race if not for the caution.
According to Fox News, Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition said, “Based upon our review of Saturday night’s race at Richmond, it is our determination that the MWR organization attempted to manipulate the outcome of the race. As the sport’s sanctioning body, it is our responsibility to ensure there is a fair and level playing field for all of our competitors, and this action today reflects our commitment to that.”
NASCAR also placed all three crew chiefs on probation until December 31, 2013, issued a record fine of $300,000.00 to MWR, and indefinitely suspended Ty Norris, who is team executive and spotter for Brian Vickers. MWR apologized and said it would not appeal the penalties and stated Norris made “a split-second decision to help a teammate earn a place in the Chase,” by pitting Vickers, according to the LA Times.
Another outcome from the spin was it put Joey Logano in a position that if he passed three cars, he would be in the chase bumping Jeff Gordon out. Joey was able to pass two cars, one by Brian Vickers being ordered to pit by Ty Norris, and apparently, Logano’s team also made a deal with David Gilliland‘s team. Gilliland slowed down and let Logano pass and finish the race 22. It also put him tenth position in the points, leaving Gordon out of the chase.
However, after reviewing the race events of the final laps, Brian France, NASCAR chairman expanded the chase field to 13, enabling Gordon to be in the chase as the thirteenth driver.
Sports Illustrated reported that France stated, “Too many things altered the event and gave an unfair disadvantage to Jeff and his team. More than anything it’s just the right thing to do. There were just too many things that went on Saturday night.”
After the announcement, Jeff tweeted, “Wow, we just gained 1250 points! Very appreciative of NASCAR consideration on this matter as well as fans overwhelming support.”
After all the recent events, penalties, and shake-ups in the standings, the final ten races should prove to be very exciting.
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