Written by: Josh Overholser (@Sisco_Kid)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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We knew there’d be drama at Richmond, the last race before the Chase. We expected number crunching, leaderboard watching and crazy pit strategies. We even expected beating, banging, last lap passing, and drivers doing whatever they could to find a way into the Chase. But cheating? Yet again, NASCAR proved to be unpredictable and raised the drama meter even more.
If you missed the race or haven’t heard yet (or live under a rock), Ryan Newman earned the lead in the closing laps at Richmond. A win would secure him a spot in the Chase with two wins. If he failed to win, Michael Waltrip Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. would beat Newman into the Chase off the tie breaker of points (since they each had one win). With eight laps to go, Clint Bowyer, another MWR driver, spun out on his own bringing out a caution and ultimately setting off a string of events that prevented Newman from winning. On top of this, MWR driver Brian Vickers pitted the 55 as the cars were going green for the final time…also a little fishy. Upon further investigation, NASCAR determined the acts to be intentional and detrimental to the sport of auto racing, all MWR cars were fined 50 driver and owner points, Michael Waltrip was fined $300,000 and GM Ty Norris was suspended indefinitely from the sport. With the points docked, Truex Jr. dropped out of the final Chase spot, and Ryan Newman bounced back in.
So now the debate. Was the penalty right? Some say NASCAR went too far, others say not far enough. I say NASCAR got it close. I agree with all the penalties that were levied. MWR clearly had a plan, and they cheated. The code words relayed to Clint about arms starting to hurt and being hot plus the way he spun when watching the in car camera and hearing car audio… the writing was on the wall, and NASCAR would have been irresponsible to do nothing.
That being said, Clint Bowyer, the guy who spun to cause the whole mess, is virtually unaffected. Sure, he was docked 50 points, but that is all erased with the Chase starting, and he’s right where he would have been anyway without the penalty. And others are noticing. President Mike Helton was asked about this in his press conference and said the penalties were targeted to MWR as a whole, not one particular driver. That response wasn’t good enough for Jeff Gordon, though. He sent out a tweet last night reading, "Feel bad for Truex. He got in under controversy now out due to it. But the guy who started all of this not effected at all??? Don't agree!"
I’m with Gordon. And I like Clint Bowyer. I think he’s a good racer and a good guy. And I realize the orders came from above and that this wasn’t his decision. But at the end of the day, Bowyer still did it. And then looked into the camera in the post race interview and lied.
Jamie Little: “Well, Clint we just watched some of the replays, and we heard the radio. People that hear that radio, somebody asking you if your arms hurt or if the car’s getting hot, they’re gonna wanna know, did you spin on purpose to help your teammate?”
Clint Bowyer: “No, I think we had a flat tire or something. I mean, we went from leading the race and got back there, and I mean they were driving off from us. I got down in there and kept getting tighter and tighter and tighter. And then the 88 got in there, and by the time I got back to the gas, he got into me, and I had so much wheel and it just snapped around.”
But contrary to Bowyer’s remarks, Dale Jr. never got into him. Here’s what Dale had to say after the race:
Dale Earnhardt Jr: “He just spun right out. It’s the craziest thing I ever saw. The thing just came right around. We were going through three and four, and I don’t know if they could put up his brakes and his gas (audio). We got all that technology. He was hemmin’ around on the brakes and jerkin’ the car around, and then the thing just spun out. It was crazy. I don’t know what was goin’ on.”
Truex also claimed in the post race interview that he wasn’t even aware that Bowyer spun out…uh huh, sure.
How Bowyer gets nothing out of this is beyond me. Taking him out of the Chase is too extreme in my mind, but couldn’t a points penalty of some sort be applied to the Chase?? The 50 points docked prior to it do NOTHING!!! To Clint’s credit, he did call Newman to apology and said he’s felt sick to his stomach ever since the incident. I believe that, and I believe Clint to be a standup man who made a bad, split second decision. That being said, he still needs to be punished more than what he got…which, again, was essentially nothing. That’s my take. What’s yours?