When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visited the Richmond International Raceway on Saturday, April 26, few in the garage expected the race to end up with such on and off track excitement that all but overshadowed the win by Team Penske's Joey Logano. The headlines coming away from the event instead featured frustration all around, but boiled over in a post race scuffle between Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears.
The Richmond track has given Germain Racing fits since the team went Sprint Cup Series racing in 2009, and this past weekend was no exception. When the first practice session got underway at Richmond International Raceway on Friday, Mears spent the majority of the two-hours in race trim and ended up 34th on the board. Final practice got underway just an hour later and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS would shoot up the chart and land 16th on the scoring tower when the session closed. Unfortunately, rain would begin to blanket the Richmond area, forcing the cancellation of qualifying, leaving the starting field to be set according to speeds in the first practice. Mears would start Saturday night's race from the 34th position, which would prove challenging on a track where passing can sometimes be a rarity.
During Saturday nights race, and with just 18 laps remaining in the advertised distance, Mears and his GEICO machine restarted the race from the 16th position and began charging forward before the No. 9 car of Marcos Ambrose made contact and caused front fender damage that resulted in a tire rub. As fate would have it, the caution flag waved just a couple of laps later, allowing Mears to visit pit road for four fresh tires and a tank of Sunoco racing fuel. Unfortunately, most cars did not need to pit, so Mears would be relegated to starting from the 23rd position with just nine laps to go. Despite the pit stop to refresh the car, Mears lost only seven positions, as the Germain Racing crew made quick work of the #13 GEICO Chevy. In the final nine laps of the race, Mears put on a show and dramatically moved up four positions to finish 19th and collect Germain Racing's sixth top 20 finish of the young 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
As a result of the on track fruckus, both Casey Mears and Marcos Ambrose exited their cars to have a bit of a discussion following the race. Unfortunately, the discussion got heated, and a shove by Mears led Ambrose to retaliate with his fist, landing a punch that would get the attention of the finest MMA fighter.
On Tuesday, NASCAR penalized drivers Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears for the altercation in the garage area, finding that both drivers violated Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing), and 12-4.9 (Behavioral Penalty; involved in an altercation in the garage area after the race) as outlined in the 2014 NASCAR rule book. As a result, Ambrose has been fined $25,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until May 28, while Mears has been fined $15,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until May 28.
According to a statement from Richard Petty Motorsports, Marcos Ambrose accepted the penalties levied by NASCAR after his actions at Richmond International Raceway, and will not appeal. As of this posting there has been no official comment from Germain Racing.
"It was a lot of fun to drive such a fast racecar tonight and be able to do what I needed to do," Mears said after taking time to cool his jets. "The guys on this GEICO team have worked really hard and I'm glad we were able to come to Richmond and have a strong night. The car got better during the race and we were able to run solidly up front."
On Sunday, May 4, the stars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series prepare to battle on the high banks of Talladega in the Aaron's 499 , which will be televised live on FOX beginning at 1:00 PM (EDT). The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.
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