Chase-gate continues. On Friday, NASCAR put Penske Racing and Front Row Motorsports on probation until the end of the year for violating section 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing) after studying in-race radio communications from Front Row’s No. 38 team (driver David Gilliland) from the Sept. 7 race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway and questioning race team personnel.
“Based on all of our findings this week, we determined both Front Row Motorsports and Penske Racing organizations would be placed on probation for the remainder of the season,” NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian France said. “Additionally, based upon the totality of our findings, to be fair and equitable, we decided that adding a 13th car to this year’s Chase is the appropriate action.”
That 13th car will be the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports entry of Jeff Gordon. Gordon, winless so far this season, finished just one point behind No. 22 Penske Racing driver Joey Logano and outside the top-10.
The Front Row Motorsports radio communications from Richmond pointed at the team striking a deal with Penske for No. 38 driver David Gilliland to give Logano a position on the race track, with each position on the track equalling one point. Again, Logano finished only a single point inside the top-10 and ahead of Gordon.
Also, earlier in the week, NASCAR came down hard on Michael Waltrip Racing for manipulating results of the Richmond race, both with a seemingly intentional spin by MWR driver Clint Bowyer, and a trip down poit road for MWR driver Brian Vickers for no other reason than to help Logano remain in the top-10 so that he wouldn’t get into the Chase using the wild card that Michael Waltrip Racing wanted to go to another one of its drivers, Martin Truex Jr. As a result of those penalties, Truex was bumped from the Chase and replaced by Ryan Newman.
NASCAR concluded that actions by FRM, Penske and MWR unfairly locked Gordon out of a spot inside the top-10 of the standings, and therefore, the Chase.
“I applaud NASCAR for taking the time for a full review,” Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick said. “What occurred at Richmond was not of their making,and they’ve had to wrestle with some very difficult decisions throughout the week. I know everything doine by NASCAR has been a sincere effort to be fair and, ultimately, do what best for our sport and our fans.”
– Photo courtesy of Getty Imges for NASCAR