On Wednesday, FOX Sports learned of team communications with David Gilliland during the night race at Richmond on Saturday, in which the driver and crew discussed giving up a position on the track to Joey Logano, a fellow Ford Racing driver, to help him secure his place in the Chase. Logano went on the finish 22nd while Gilliland finished 23rd.
NASCAR officials next met with Front Row Motorsports crew chief Frank Kerr and spotter David Keith on Friday morning at Chicagoland Speedway to discuss Saturday night’s happenings at Richmond International Raceway, with a separate meeting held with Penske Racing vice president Bud Denker, competition director Travis Geisler, and vice president of operations Michael Nelson, as well as with the crew chief Todd Gordon and spotter Tab Boyd for Logano.
Both teams were able to review the radio communications and the tapes from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond International during the meeting.
Today NASCAR announced both the Front Row Motorsports and Penske Racing organizations have been placed on NASCAR probation until December 31, for violating Section 12-1 which is- Actions detrimental to stock car racing.
On the audio tapes the Front Row Motorsports asked for a deal from Penske Racing in the closing laps of last Saturday’s race, then helped assure that Penske’s driver Logano would make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship by having one of its own drivers back off, according to the Associated Press’ review of the radio communications.
Gilliland’s spotter tells his crew that Logano’s team wanted Gilliland’s position on the track ‘and they said they’d probably be able to help us in the future,’ according to the review of Front Row’s audio communications.
“You tell that spotter up there, it better pay big,” was the reply by someone believed to be Frank Karr, crew chief for Gilliland.
“Yeah, it’s not the spotter, it’s the whole committee,” the spotter reports.
“The committee knows what I’ve been asking for,” Kerr responds.
“We’ve got the big dog and all of his cronies,” the spotter says, referring possibly to Roger Penske, who is known to watch NASCAR races from the spotter stand.
Kerr then adds, “Travis knows what I’ve been asking for,” an elusive reference to Penske Racing competition director Travis Geisler.
Shortly after the radio communications, Logano passed Gilliland on the restart and finished 22nd one spot ahead of Gilliland and good enough to secure a spot in the Chase field.
Good job, good job, man,” the spotter says. “Hopefully we’ll get something out of that.”
Trading favors both on and off the track is a common occurrence in NASCAR, but the series is already dealing with the embarrassment of another team being able to seize control of the Richmond race. NASCAR punished Michael Waltrip Racing and all three of its drivers for mischievousness during the final seven laps and then took the unprecedented step of removing one of them from the Chase field.
Martin Truex Jr. was the driver removed, broke his silence Wednesday in a series of post on Twitter.
“I drove the hardest race of my life that Night & was unaware of any other circumstances other than needing to finish as high as I could to have a chance,” Truex Jr. tweeted. “This has been a very difficult situation for everyone involved. I hope we can all move on. I’m looking forward to Chicago.”
The Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship begins Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway with 13 drivers also in another unprecedented move by NASCAR, as NASCAR Chairman Brian France said earlier today, “It’s just the right thing to do.”
With the Chase beginning it is stained by the MWR controversy, as well as the suggestion that a small team like Front Row Motorsports would hit up a deep-pocketed, fellow Ford Racing team such as Penske for an allowance to get Logano into the 12 driver field while someone else threw the race.
Logano is told only right before the final restart that he’s racing three cars for position, one which is Gilliland, but no communication on Logano’s team radio suggest any discussion with Front Row.
Both teams, of Penske and Front Row, are Ford Racing teams and considered partners the statistics analyzed by the AP also go on to show that after Logano passed the #38, Gilliland’s lap times drop off by almost 1 second from the times he was running prior to his radio exchange.