13 November 2012
Penalties handed out over Phoenix fracas
“We accept the penalties announced by NASCAR today and look forward to finishing what has been a breakthrough season for Michael Waltrip Racing," the team said in a statement, after having earlier apologised for the conduct of its team member in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
“The goal of Michael Waltrip Racing is to be a championship-level organization both on and off the track. The on-track incident which occurred during Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway was extremely disappointing and brought raw emotions of a long and hard championship battle to the surface," the team explained. "Though we generally cannot control certain actions on the track, the unfortunate reactions off the track Sunday did not live up to the professional standards in which Michael Waltrip Racing expects all of its representatives to live by."
Team owner Michael Waltrip himself had been scathing of Gordon in post-race interviews on Sunday. "What a sad act that was by Jeff Gordon ... Cowardly, chicken and sad," he told the media even as fists were flying elsewhere on pit road.
Gordon's wrecking of Bowyer meant that the MWR driver was eliminated from contention in the 2012 Chase for the championship, another reason why Gordon's act of retaliation had been seen as such a serious matter.
"That was my opportunity to get myself back into the championship hunt," Bowyer said on Sunday. "When you disrupt a championship hunt like that, it's too bad. They ask us not to do that at the drivers meeting and there's usually a lot of respect there. It's crazy ... It's pretty embarrassing for a four-time champion."
Championship leader Brad Keselowski had been equally critical of the incident. "These guys just tried to kill each other," he told reporters. "It's just [expletive] ridiculous, and they should be ashamed. It's embarrassing."
Keselowski wasn't sanctioned for using profane language in post-race media interviews - but he did receive a surprise $25,000 fine of his own for using his mobile phone to tweet messages from his car while the field was stopped under a red flag for the Gordon/Bowyer incident. Keselowski will also be under probation for the rest of the year, but crucially does not lose any championship points.
Keselowski's penalty is because of a NASCAR rule that allows the use of digital communications devices from the car during a race, which includes mobile phones. That's to ensure that teams can't sent messages to their drivers during the race that can't be monitored by NASCAR officials.
Keselowski got away with a similar incident during the Daytona 500 when he tweeted from the track during a red flag for Juan Montoya's impact into the back of a jet dryer, but all drivers and teams were subsequently reminded of the rule and told that any new occurrence would be penalised.
No other penalties were handed out on Monday, and Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, indicated that no further sanctions would be announced as a result of the Phoenix fracas, which also saw a chaotic green-white-chequered finish with multiple spins as a result of oil on the track. The owner of the winning car on Sunday, Richard Childress, had been very vocal in his criticism of NASCAR's failure to throw a caution flag in time.
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