For the first time since the inception of the Chase for the Sprint Cup format, NASCAR has changed the players involved after the field had already been set. Michael Waltrip Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was one of the 12 drivers to make the Chase following Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway as recipient of the final wild card spot. But come Monday evening, Truex was out and Ryan Newman was in.
“Obviously, we’re very pleased with NASCAR’s decision to provide Ryan Newman’s rightful place in this year’s Chase,” Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart said. “NASCAR was put in a very difficult position Saturday night at Richmond, and we commend the sanctioning body for taking the time to do the necessary due diligence to ensure that the right call was made.”
Controversy plagued the final laps of Saturday night’s race, with most of that controversy coming from MWR. There was a spin, thought to be intentional, from Clint Bowyer in an effort to help Truex claim a wild card spot. Also Brian Vickers, another Michael Waltrip Racing driver, slowed and headed down pit road under green-flag conditions for no reason, other than to help Joey Logano, a Penske Racing driver, run in a position that would keep Logano in the top-10 of the points standings. The idea was to keep Logano in the top-10 to make sure he wouldn’t use up the wild card MWR wanted to go to Truex.
As a result of Michael Waltrip Racing’s collective actions in the Richmond race, all three Sprint Cup teams — No. 15 (Bowyer), No. 55 (Vickers) and No. 56 (Truex) — were docked 50 driver and championship points apiece. The pooints penalties were assessed following the Richmond race, but before the seeding, or points adjustment for the Chase. That 50-point penalty knocked Truex out of Chase contention and moved Newman into the Chase. Prior to the penalty and Chase adjustment, Truex and Newman were tied in both points and wins (one each) for the final wild card spot. Truex was awarded the wild card by tie-breaker.
In its penalty announcement, NASCAR citied section 12-4 (actions detrimental to stock car racing) of the NASCAR rule book.
“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,” team owner Michael Waltrip said. “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.”
The penalties didn’t stop there, though. MWR was fined $300,000. Executive Vice President/General Manager and spotteer for Vickers, Norris, was indefinitely suspended from NASCAR competition.
All three crew chiefs — Brian Pattie (15), Scott Miller (55) and Chad Johnson (56) — were placed on probation until the end of the year.
“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,” NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said. “As the sport’s sanctioning body, it is our responsibility to ensure there is a fair and level playing field for all of our competitiors, and this action today reflects our commitment to that.”
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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