Less than 48 hours earlier, the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field had been set after the end of the Saturday night race at Richmond International Raceway. But in an unprecedented Monday evening press conference, NASCAR announced penalties that rewrote the line-up.
The penalties were the culmination of a review into events that took place at the end of the weekend's Cup race which was the decider before the Chase cut-off. Stewart-Haas Racing's Ryan Newman was leading the race and looking set for victory with seven laps to go when Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer suddenly spun out on the frontstretch.
As a result of the ensuing pit stops and final restart, Carl Edwards won the race and Newman ended up in third place which meant that he missed out on the final wins wildcard place in the Chase to Bowyer's team mate Martin Truex Jr. If Newman had won the race then the wildcard spot would have been his and Truex would have missed the cut.
After an intense review of the circumstances surrounding Bowyer's spin, NASCAR concluded on Monday that the team had purposefully conspired through the use of covert team orders to manipulate the race outcome in direct contravention of the series rules, and accordingly handed down some of the biggest penalties ever seen in the series' history.
All three of MWR's cars lose 50 points in both the drivers and owners championships, and MWR itself has been fined a record $300,000. The team's executive vice-president and general manager Ty Norris has been indefinitely suspended from NASCAR competition, and all three car crew chiefs placed on probation until the end of 2013.
"Based upon our review of Saturday night's race at Richmond, it is our determination that the MWR organisation attempted to manipulate the outcome of the race," explained Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition. "As the sport's sanctioning body, it is our responsibility to ensure there is a fair and level playing field for all of our competitors and this action today reflects our commitment to that," he added.
"It's difficult," said NASCAR president Mike Helton. "It's not an easy decision to make. The conversations about it were deep ... We penalised it to ask for it to not happen again. It's a message from the sanctioning body to say, 'You can't do this.'
"Remember, it's a sport and it's got a lot of fun attached to it," Helton added. "Every now and then it gets out of bounds and we have to bring it back in order to maintain credibility."
The net result of the points deductions - which are applied to the points standings before they are reset for the Chase - means that Truex is no longer ahead of Newman in the standings and therefore loses his hold on the wildcard and no longer makes the play-offs. Instead, Ryan Newman now finishes in the wildcard position and is duly promoted into the 2013 Chase after all, just two days after the heartbreak of believing that he'd missed out.