While Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano did not win anything at Richmond International Raceway last Saturday night except for a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, it didn’t stop them from manipulating the rules to favor them. Today NASCAR dropped the hammer for the second time this week to preserve the integrity of their sport.
In an unprecedented step, Jeff Gordon was added as a 13th car for the title run to “be fair and equitable” after placing sanctions on Front Row Motorsports and Penske Racing for their actions at RIR.
“It is clear to us that attempts to manipulate the results impacted the Chase field,” the NASCAR release said. ““The integrity of our sport remains the cornerstone of NASCAR, and our actions this week speak to our commitment to ensure a level playing field for all competitors.”
Both the Front Row and Penske were placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31 for violating Section 12-1 (Actions detrimental to stock car racing). There was a comprehensive review of all available audio and video communications from the Federated Auto Parts 400 that exposed illegal conversations between the two organizations that allegedly led to David Gilliland (Front Row) letting Logano (Penske) to pass him so he could gain another point. That was big because Gordon missed the Chase by a single point.
“I applaud NASCAR for taking the time for a full review,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports in a release. “What occurred at Richmond was not of their making, and they’ve had to wrestle with some very difficult decisions throughout the week. I know everything done by NASCAR has been a sincere effort to be fair and ultimately do what’s best for our sport and our fans.”
Earlier in the week NASCAR levied the harshest penalty ever against Michael Waltrip Racing that yanked Truex out of the Chase because of a 50 point penalty, suspended MWR Executive Vice President/General Manager Ty Norris indefinitely and fined the organization $300,000. In addition the other two MWR teams were also assessed 50 point penalties and all three crew chiefs were placed on probation until the end of the year.
Jeff Gordon immediately responded by saying the sanctions did not go far enough, especially to Boyer who intentionally spun out in order to allow Truex to make the Chase and help eliminate Ryan Newman. There were some who believed Boyer should have been hit with the 50 points as he entered the Chase, not before it.
Truex would drop out of the standings and Newman got in, now Gordon is in and it seems that justice has been done. Or has it?
Logano was not given any points deduction and he has just as much chance of taking home the title as Boyer does. As it turns out, the two drivers at the center of the controversies will begin the season ending 10 race schedule even with everyone else.
Back in 1972, the great Richard Petty said, “If you ain’t trying to cheat a little, you ain’t likely to win much.” NASCAR has been beset with those who push the envelope trying to get an advantage over the competition, but Richmond became a mess they did not anticipate.
NASCAR reacted quickly, to their credit, but the damage to their reputation is something that will linger around for a long time.
Sponsors have already said they are reviewing they affiliation with MWR. Front Row and Penske could be in a similar boat. But if NASCAR comes under the scrutiny of their major sponsors, that could be devastating to the sport. Stay tuned.