Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - NASCAR handed down one of the most severe
penalties in its history to Michael Waltrip Racing, but many are wondering if
enough justice was served to the team, particularly with driver Clint Bowyer.
After thoroughly reviewing the closing laps of last Saturday night's event at
Richmond International Raceway, NASCAR officials determined on Monday that MWR
"attempted to manipulate the outcome of the race." MWR received a $300,000
fine, which is the largest in NASCAR history. Bowyer as well as his teammates
Martin Truex Jr. and Brian Vickers were each penalized with a loss of 50
points. The sanctioning body also placed Ty Norris, who is the vice
president/general manager of MWR and the spotter for Vickers, on indefinite
The point penalties for all three MWR drivers were assessed following the
Richmond race and not after the seeding for the Chase. Truex's points loss
bumped him out of the playoffs as a wild card, as he finished the regular
season 17th in the standings. Ryan Newman is now in the Chase after taking
over the final wild card spot.
Bowyer created this whole ruckus when he spun out with seven laps remaining in
the race. Newman, who held the lead at the time of the incident, was
attempting to win his second race of the season, which would have given him a
Chase berth. Newman ended up finishing third after he lost the lead during the
caution due to a slow pit stop.
Bowyer's spin created a whirlwind of speculation that he did it on purpose to
help Truex get into the Chase. It prompted NASCAR to investigate the matter.
During a press conference to announce the penalties, NASCAR president Mike
Helton said there was no conclusive evidence that Bowyer's spin was
intentional. But Helton noted the radio communications between Norris and
Vickers just prior to the final restart with three laps to go was "the most
clear piece of evidence" that led NASCAR to make its conclusion and therefore
penalize MWR. Norris told Vickers to pit right before the last restart so he
would purposely give up his running position. It helped Truex get a seventh-
place finish, which was good enough for him to clinch a spot in the Chase.
"We penalize to ask for it to not happen again," Helton said. "It's not
necessarily a penalty to take it out on somebody, as it's been presented in
the past. It's a message from the league or the sanctioning body saying you
can't do this and expect us not to react to it."
While NASCAR seems to believe Bowyer did not spin intentionally, many have a
different opinion of what happened. And some think that NASCAR should have
taken further action against Bowyer.
Having clinched his spot in the Chase at Bristol, which was two weeks prior to
Richmond, Bowyer's 50-point loss had no effect on his adjusted point total for
the playoffs, which is 2,000. He did not win a race during the regular season
and therefore wasn't awarded any bonus points.
"No rearview mirrors in life, just windshield ahead. It's been a great year
and is going to be a great chase. Time to move on!!!" Bowyer posted on his
Twitter account Monday night.
Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon finished eighth at Richmond but failed
to make it into the Chase by only one point. Joey Logano's 22nd-place run
there was good enough for him to earn the final top-10 points spot for the
Gordon wondered why Truex, who had no involvement in the shenanigans at
Richmond, was taken out of the Chase and Bowyer remained in it with the same
points total (2,000) he had before the penalties were issued.
"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!" Gordon
Facing a credibility issue over the Richmond incident, NASCAR had to give MWR
a harsh punishment for its actions, but did the penalties make a strong enough
statement since Bowyer suffered no real consequences from it?
"As far as the credibility of the sport, NASCAR has always taken very serious
its responsibility to maintain for the most part its credibility," Helton
said. "And I say maintain for the most part, because we get the fact that
that's subjective to fans and others in the industry. But that's why we're
sitting here to explain why we made the decisions we made, in hopes to explain
why we did that and to offer up some reasonableness to our credibility.
"I think the biggest thing is to remember it's a sport, and it's got a lot of
fun attached to it. Every now and then, it gets out of bounds, and we have to
bring it back in order to maintain credibility."
The controversy surrounding Bowyer will be with him throughout the 10-race
Chase, which begins this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. He finished a
career-best second in points last year.
The Sports Network