10 September 2013
Massive MWR penalties eject Truex from the Chase
However NASCAR wasn't able to definitively prove that the actual spin was deliberate. "There's not conclusive evidence that the #15's spin was intentional," Helton said. "There's a lot of chatter, there's the video that shows a car spinning, but we didn't see anything conclusive that that was intentional."
That means that despite being widely seen as the primary instrument of the alleged race manipulation, Bowyer comes out of the NASCAR review unaffected in any material sense. While he loses 50 points, he still easily makes the Chase - and because the points are then adjusted to give all Chase contenders 2000 points plus an allowance for races won during the season, Bowyer's points tally going into Chicagoland next weekend remains the same as it was before the penalties.
It was when the team's third driver Brian Vickers was also dragged into the apparent manipulation when he, along with Bowyer, was then called onto pit road by the team under the ensuing caution that NASCAR found the proof it needed. Vickers was audibly surprised by the team call, which had the effect of helping Penske Racing's Joey Logano get the wavearound and move up into a position that ensured he would make the Chase, which also benefited Truex's hopes of making the cut.
"We're probably going to pit here on green," Norris is heard to tell Vickers under the caution. "Are you talking to me?" responded a puzzled Vickers, who continued to query the call. "I don't understand, pit right now?"
"You've got to pit this time. We need that one point," Norris replied, to which Vickers responded, "Ten-four. Do I got a tyre going down?" as he finally followed team instructions. When he subsequently checked up to see if there had been anything wrong with his original tyres, Norris radioed: "I'll see you after the race, Brian. I owe you a kiss."
Helton said that it was this conversation considered to be the 'smoking gun' by NASCAR. By comparison, the equivalent radio conversation with Bowyer was relatively terse, Bowyer simply following the instruction to pit without requiring any reason for a third visit to pit road under the yellow.
"What occurred on the #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 #55 to pit lane and help a teammate earn a place in the Chase," explained Waltrip in the official MWR statement responding to the penalties. "We regret the decision and its impact."
Fortunately Vickers is currently primarily competing in the Nationwide Series championship and so does not lose driver Cup points as a result of the ruling, although the #55 is still docked the requisite car owner points. In fact the one member of the MWR organisation seemingly out of the loop and not an active part of the plan was Truex himself, who ends up the biggest loser from NASCAR's adjudication as he drops to 17th place in the standings. "I didn't even know it happened until after the race," insisted the driver of the #56 car when told it had been Bowyer who triggered that fateful final caution.
Also a big loser from the events of Saturday night - and who is not helped in any way at all by the penalties - is Hendrick Motorsport's four-time champion Jeff Gordon, whose own bid to make the Chase had been undone by Logano's late reprieve.
"Feel bad for Truex," Gordon tweeted after hearing about the penalties. "He got in under controversy now out due to it. But the guy who started all of this not effected [sic] at all??? Don't agree!"
Michael Waltrip Racing
Martin Truex Jr.
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