NASCAR says don’t mess with their Chase system with penalties in wrong way

Photo Credit: Noel Lanier

Following Michael Waltrip Racing’s attempt to manipulate the Chase qualifying drivers, NASCAR slapped them with some huge penalties.

“We’re announcing that NASCAR is reacting to Michael Waltrip Racing by fining Michael Waltrip, owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, $300,000, suspending Ty Norris indefinitely, and each team of Michael Waltrip Racing will be fined 50 owner points and 50 driver points,” Mike Helton announced last night. “This naturally is a very significant reaction from NASCAR.  As multiple car owners have become a very positive integral part of our support, also comes with it, though, responsibility from NASCAR and as well the car owners, to maintain a fair and level playing field.”

“We’ve discussed, we’ve talked about what-ifs over the years, particularly since the Chase was established, particularly with the evolution of multiple-car teams, and we’ve been very fortunate that we’ve not had any occurrences that required NASCAR to step up or step out, as we have had to today.”

Mike Helton went on to add that they had to take a stand to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“It’s not necessarily a penalty to take it out on somebody, as it’s been presented in the past,” he explained. “It’s a message from the league or the sanctioning body saying you can’t do this and expect us not to react to it.”

On Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, a series of events played out that resulted in catching a lot of people’s attention. For starters, Clint Bowyer spun with just under 20 laps to go without contact on the radio. Well it may look harmless, radio traffic would say to have proven otherwise.

Audio replayed by ESPN after the race had spotter Brett Griffin telling Bowyer the circumstances of the race, followed by two odd comments from crew chief Brian Pattie:

“Is your arm starting to hurt?” Pattie said on the radio. “I bet it’s getting hot in there. Itch it.” Bowyer then spun out.

Then in the closing laps, fellow Michael Waltrip Racing driver Brian Vickers made a very interesting timed pit stop after a “interesting” discussion with his spotter and MWR competition director Ty Norris.

 

On Lap 396 Vickers is told he’s got to pit and he replies, “I’ve got to WHAT?”

“We’re probably going to pit here on green.”

“Are you talking to me?”

“Yeah, we’re going to pit.”

“”What? I’ve got to pit?”

“I don’t understand. Pit right now?”

“You’ve got to pit this time. We need that 1 point.”

“10-4. Do I got a tire going down?”

“Yeah. Come down pit road right now, get a good look at it.”

(After he pits) “Did you find anything?”

“I’ll see you after the race, Brian, I owe you a kiss.”

 

The pair of circumstances were played out to therefore qualify the third MWR driver, Martin Truex Jr., into the Chase. In doing so, they also let Joey Logano in, well knocking out Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon. With the penalties, Newman gets his spot back in trade of Truex falling out. However, there is no fix for Gordon’s Chase chances being thrown away and that’s cause NASCAR says they can’t police the ripple effects, but only those who caused the actions.

“It’s typical for us to look at what occurred, and what react to what occurred,” Helton explained. “We don’t react to the ripple effect of an occurrence because I don’t think there’s anyway we can reasonably do that.  The 50 points across every Michael Waltrip team is — once the decision was made this afternoon, we revert back to the end of the Richmond race, and we take the points total from the 26th race of the 2013 season, apply our reaction, and then go forward.  So we run the race, we had an occurrence in it that we reacted to, as usual we apply our reaction to those results, and then we take the next step.”

In a brief statement provided via text message to the Charlotte Observer on Tuesday morning, Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick said he was just as mad as his driver, Jeff Gordon, over the penalties NASCAR handed down Monday night regarding Michael Waltrip Racing’s attempt to manipulate the outcome of Saturday night’s race at Richmond, Va.

Hendrick went on to say, “Jeff Gordon got robbed. On to the Chase and try to win it.”

Jeff Gordon also sent out a series of tweets last night as the announcement was made, with regards to his opinion.

 

 

Some people suggested that NASCAR should have expanded the Chase to 13 drivers and allowed Gordon to be in as a result of the events, but that wasn’t happening due to not being within “NASCAR’s rulebook”.

However, as Gordon stated, Bowyer is not receiving any precaution for his actions. Sure they said he was penalized 50 points, but that’s before Chase re-seeding so therefore doesn’t effect him in how he starts the Chase. Sure he was fine $300,000, but that’s pitty change considering what these guys make and MWR will probably pay that any way. So what precautions does Bowyer face for what he did? Nothing. Does that seem fair? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Also, MWR doesn’t even admit to Bowyer’s fault of doing what he did in their own statement as they focused on the Vickers’ part of the deal.

“What occurred on the No. 55 radio at the end of Saturday night’s race in Richmond was a split-second decision made by team spotter Ty Norris to bring the No. 55 to pit lane and help a teammate earn a place in the Chase,” Michael Waltrip said in the team’s statement. “We regret the decision and its impact. We apologize to NASCAR, our fellow competitors, partners and fans who were disappointed in our actions. We will learn from this and move on. As general manager, Ty Norris has been an integral part of Michael Waltrip Racing since its founding and has my and (co-owner) Rob Kauffman’s full support.”

One of reasons why it may be lost in the shuffle as because NASCAR never found any conclusive evidence that the spin was on purpose.

“There’s not conclusive evidence that the 15 spin was intentional,” Helton said. “There’s a lot of chatter, there’s the video that shows a car spinning, but we didn’t see anything conclusive that that was intentional.”

If Bowyer goes down to the final races with a legitimate shot at the championship, I believe you’ll see other teams make sure that it doesn’t happen with a series of events of their own. We all know that Gordon and Bowyer don’t like each other very much, either. Reference last year at Phoenix and the whole fight that happened there.

About Ashley McCubbin 3102 Articles
Joining OnPitRoad.com mid-2013 season, Ashley McCubbin is now the Managing Editor and contributes to each racing division as needed. Since studying journalism at the University of Guelph-Humber, Ashley has published articles on a couple of different websites, while serving as a public relations representative for different short track teams. Born in North York, Ontario, Ashley currently lives in Bradford, Ontario and spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area. She has spent her entire life at the short track level, falling in love with the sport at the age of five. Beyond her love of short track racing, she also has grown an interest for both NASCAR and the IndyCar Racing Series. She also enjoys taking photos and working on websites, while playing a couple rounds of Candy Crush afterwards.