If NASCAR was hoping that its swift, decisive and heavily punitive response to the allegations that Michael Waltrip Racing had manipulated the outcome of last weekend's Chase decider at Richmond International Raceway had put the matter to rest, then the events of the last 48 hours won't have made comfortable reading.

MWR was given a record fine, and all three of their NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars handed 50-point penalties and the crew chiefs put on probation, with the team's general manager Ty Norris suspended from competition indefinitely. The penalties came after the sanctioning body determined that under the final caution of the night the team had called two of their cars onto pit road unnecessarily, simply to ensure that the third remaining car, that of Martin Truex Jr., finished in a Chase position at the end. As a result of the points penalties, Truex lost his Chase spot which went instead to Ryan Newman.

But while NASCAR's clear action on the allegations of race manipulations were broadly welcomed by fans, the way that the penalties left Clint Bowyer - the MWR driver who caused the original caution with a curious spin seven laps from the finish - unaffected going into his own Chase campaign, while also leaving Jeff Gordon out of the Chase despite having been one of those affected by MWR's actions has led to ongoing simmering resent.

NASCAR said that it had not been able to prove a case against Bowyer for causing a deliberate spin, and that it could not legislate for all the 'ripple effects' of MWR's subsequent pitstops, which helped Penske Racing's Joey Logano into the Chase ahead of Gordon. However, now the flood doors have been opened, it was perhaps only a matter of time before reporters uncovered further evidence of other possible attempts at race manipulation at Richmond.

Radio transcripts from Front Row Racing reviewed by The Associated Press show that David Gilliland was instructed to allow Logano past in the final laps. When Gilliland asks where the request came from, a voice - believed to be that of his crew chief Frank Kerr - replies: "We've got the big dog and all his cronies," adding: "Travis knows what I've been asking for," in an apparent reference to Penske Racing competition director Travis Geisler.

Gilliland did indeed let Logano past at the restart and his lap times dropped off by a second after the exchange as the Penske car went on to finish in 22nd to clinch a Chase spot after which the transcript of the radio comms adds: "Good job, good job, man," and further remarking: "Hopefully we'll get something out of that."

NASCAR issued a statement on Wednesday noting that it was "aware of reports about the #22 and #38 radio communications at Richmond International Raceway and is looking into it, but has yet to see anything in full context that requires any action."

Logano and Gilliland are not the only ones feeling the heat, as even Jimmie Johnson has been sucked into the continuing controversy after Bowyer compared his own controversial spin near the end of the race with an earlier one by the #48 that also helped Johnson's Hendrick Motorsport team mate Jeff Gordon.

"Clint brought it up from what I've been able to see and read," said Johnson on Wednesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, part way through a week of media activities for the dozen drivers who made the 2013 Chase. "I think he was just having a bad day. And as things kept piling on, he just tried to suck someone else into the mix with him.

"If anyone has any questions, just go back and look at the race and you'll see that our tyre blowing was bad for the #24, bad for the #5 [the third Hendrick car driven by Kasey Kahne], bad for a lot of guys who were coming to pit road," Johnson said. "The only silver lining for the #24 was that he was preserved on pit road, and was able to get the Lucky Dog," although that still left Gordon at the tail-end of the leap lap cars meaning that "There was no benefit," insisted Johnson.

The MWR ruling in effect has opened a Pandora's Box about what is and is not allowable in the sport via team orders - a debate that F1 went through a few years ago, and after initially outlawing the practice eventually decided that there was no way of enforcing it and so concluded that team orders should be permitted in future. With NASCAR having problems proving infractions in the first place and then holding the line subsequently, it may be that it will ultimately have to follow the same path.

"I say you do whatever you've got to do to get your team in," said Kyle Busch. "If you're in that position, and you have multi-team cars, that's what they're there for.

"Some people say I'm full of crap and you're not supposed to manipulate the end of the race - just let it play out as it plays out, let the best man win," he continued. ""But I was in the same position last year. There were ways it could have been manipulated and I could have gotten myself in the Chase. But I didn't do it. And I missed the Chase."

Johnson himself was unhappy with the finish of the Richmond race for another reason, after he felt that event winner Carl Edwards got a clear jump start that wasn't spotted by officials. Johnson lost a seemingly-certain race win earlier this year after being penalised for a jump start that he still does not agree with, whereas he feels Edwards' offence on Saturday night was clear.

"I'm shocked there wasn't a call on it, plain and simple," he said, suggesting that in future NASCAR could adopt an NFL-style system of video officiating after immediately suspending the race for the duration. "Red flag. Pits are closed. Figure it out and make the best judgement that they can, because trying to go back on a Monday or a Tuesday to fix the situation, that is just too much. I've learned something about the 'ripple effect.'"

The ripples continue elsewhere, with possibly serious consequences for the MWR team as two key sponsors expressed their displeasure about the events of last weekend, including the main backer of Truex's #56 car which won - and then lost - a Chase position on Saturday.

"The actions taken by Michael Waltrip's racing team this past weekend leading to the penalties assessed by NASCAR are very concerning," NAPA said in a company statement. "We are disappointed that a partner associated with our organisation would make such a significant error in judgement.

And Bowyer's principal sponsor, energy drinks company 5-Hour Energy, also said that it would be reviewing its links with the team. "We respect NASCAR's penalties against MWR and are addressing our sponsorship relations internally," the company said on Twitter.

Bowyer himself continued to deny - or at least sidestep - any questions regarding his curious spin that brought out the crucial final caution.

"Let's not dig too much into this," Bowyer told ESPN. "Anytime something happens on the racetrack, it's unfortunate. If I had a crystal ball and could have told you everything lined up just perfectly the way it did, there's no way you could do all that math and know everything that happened."

Bowyer and MWR need to be careful about what they say about the spin in public. Since NASCAR determined that there was insufficient proof available on Monday to hold Bowyer to account for causing the caution, it means that they could still act and impose even heavier penalties if more proof - or an admission - subsequently came to light. It could even jeopardise Bowyer's Chase position in that event.

Bowyer was even wary when making a sincere apology to Ryan Newman on Tuesday, as the Stewart-Haas Racing driver recalled.

"I really feel he was genuine with his remorse," said Newman. "He said it was a heat-of-the-moment thing, and he told me the biggest thing was he was glad NASCAR did what they did and took the action they did to get me in the Chase. I believed him and that made me feel good about what he was saying, but no, he did not say with the exact words that he spun on purpose."

"I feel bad for Martin, and I feel he didn't know anything about it and he had the carpet ripped out from underneath him, and I know exactly how that feels," said Newman, who is good friends with Truex off the track. "I want to go out and do the best I can in the Chase and do the best I can for my team, but at the same time, I'm disappointed my buddy isn't part of it and I'm disappointed at what he's going through right now."

Team co-owner Michael Waltrip was also facing the media this week and fielding questions about the incident.

"It's been very challenging," he said, before insisting that the race manipulation attempt had been a spur of the moment call and not part of a studied, planned attempt to game the system. "We didn't have a complex plan about how we were going to manipulate the race to get Martin in.

"We're not immoral, we're not irresponsible," he added. "Decisions were made just based on circumstances. As we look back, we would've been smarter and done things differently."

Waltrip pointed out that team orders were rife in NASCAR and happened all the time, but he accepted that what went on in Richmond - with the Chase at stake worth millions of dollars to anyone making the cut-off - was of a different order.

"It's never before affected such an important situation. I understand that. We've learned," he said. "If I had been standing beside Ty at that moment, I don't know that I would have done anything differently.

"I'm afraid I wouldn't have, because we've seen people give up positions all the time in this sport to give a teammate a point. It happens. We've seen the leader pull over so another guy can lead, so I would have screwed that one up, too."


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