NASCAR CHASE Standings Change
CONCORD, N.C. -- Ryan Newman is in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, and Martin Truex Jr.
is out after NASCAR penalties reconfigured the playoff field in the
wake of what the sanctioning body deemed manipulation of Saturday
night’s regular-season finale by Michael Waltrip Racing.
As a result, NASCAR docked all three MWR drivers -- Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers
and Truex -- 50 owner and driver points apiece, implementing the
penalty before points were reset for the Chase. The amended standings
knock Truex out of the second and final Wild Card position in favor of
Newman, who was leading with seven laps remaining at Richmond International Raceway before a series of events involving the MWR teams played a significant role in altering the outcome.
“It is our determination that the MWR organization attempted to
manipulate the outcome of the race,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice
president for competition. “As the sport’s sanctioning body, it is our
responsibility to ensure there is a fair and level playing field for all
of our competitors and this action today reflects out commitment to
In addition to the points penalties, MWR was also fined $300,000 -- what
series president Mike Helton called “the most major fine in our history
in terms of a dollar amount” -- and Ty Norris, the organization’s
executive vice president and Vickers’ spotter, was suspended
indefinitely. The team’s three crew chiefs, Brian Pattie (Bowyer), Chad
Johnston (Truex) and Scott Miller (Vickers), were all placed on
probation through Dec. 31.
Waltrip said Monday night in a statement that he would not appeal the ruling. The Chase begins Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
“This naturally is a very significant reaction from NASCAR,” Helton
said. “As multiple car owners have become a very positive, integral part
of this sport, that also comes with the responsibility from NASCAR and
also the car owners to maintain a fair and level playing field. We’ve
talked about what-ifs over the years, particularly since the Chase was
established, particularly with the evolution of multiple-car teams. And
we’ve been very fortunate that we’ve not had any occurrences that
required NASCAR to step up … as we’ve had to do today.”
Bowyer’s spin with seven laps remaining at Richmond set off a chain of
events that directly impacted who qualified for the 12-driver postseason
Additionally, Vickers’ unscheduled pit stop in the late going allowed Joey Logano to gain a position, helping him race his way into the top 10 in points. Logano edged Jeff Gordon for the final spot based on the standings, and freed up a Wild Card spot which went to Truex.
At the point of Bowyer’s lazy slide off Turn 4, Newman led the race and
was poised to grab one of the two Wild Card berths if he could
capitalize for his second victory of the season -- which would have
denied one-win Truex the opportunity to snag a Wild Card spot. But
Bowyer’s spin brought out a deciding final caution, and a sluggish pit
stop by Newman’s No. 39 team allowed Carl Edwards to leave pit road first and pull away to the checkered flag on the final restart with three laps remaining.
A review of in-car audio later revealed Bowyer hearing from spotter
Brett Griffin that Newman was leading, then comments from crew chief
Brian Pattie, saying, “Is your arm starting to hurt? I bet it's getting
hot in there. Itch it.” Half a lap later, Bowyer’s No. 15 Toyota spun to
force the final caution period. Bowyer had clinched his berth in the
Chase three weeks earlier at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“My car was tight as hell,” Bowyer said after the race when asked about
the team radio communications. “(Jimmie Johnson) blew a tire and hit the
wall. I'm telling you, I was the next one. That thing slid, what, maybe
less than 10 feet and blew out. You know what I mean? Something was
going on there. I've been doing this a long time. It is what it is. It's
unfortunate. I know it's a lot of fun for you guys to write a lot of
wacky things. Go ahead if you want to, get creative. But don't look too
much into it.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., running behind Bowyer when the incident occurred, saw things differently.
“Looked a little intentional to me there, bud,” he told crew chief Steve
Letarte over the radio. “… He was on the brakes in the middle of the
corner trying to spin it out, trying to slow down. He was like stopping,
trying to slow it down so he could spin it out without really getting
In the immediate aftermath Saturday night, Helton said, there was
nothing in the race that seemed to warrant a reaction from NASCAR. It
was early Sunday morning when officials realized something else might
have been afoot, and NASCAR began collecting audio and video from ESPN’s
coverage as well as timing and scoring data.
NASCAR spent Monday reviewing evidence, and met with MWR executives at
the Research and Development Center before levying one of the harsher
fines in the sport’s history.
A central character in all this, Bowyer, remains the eighth seed in the
Chase despite the 50 points deducted before the standings were reset.
That didn’t sit well with Gordon, who was also directly impacted by the
late-race actions of the MWR drivers Saturday night.
“The guy who started all this not affected at all?” the four-time champion posted via Twitter.
“We react to what occurred,” Helton said when asked about Gordon. “We
don’t react to the ripple effect of an occurrence, because I don’t
think there’s any way we can reasonably do that.”
Helton said the penalty was assessed to the MWR team as a whole.
“The reaction by NASCAR is to Michael Waltrip Racing, and to every team
in his organization,” he said. “… Cars spin out. We have cautions. There
are a lot of things that happen on the race track, people speculate on
why it happened or how it happened. Sometimes there is conclusive
evidence. More often then not, though, you don’t know exactly what
happened. But the collection of evidence from Saturday night led us to a
team-wide reaction rather than an individual car.”
Helton said there was no indication that Bowyer’s spin Saturday night
was intentional, and that the most damning piece of evidence in NASCAR’s
eyes was the radio communication between Norris and Vickers -- in which
the driver of the No. 55 car seemed surprised at a sudden and
unforeseen instruction to pit.
“That was the most clear piece of what we found,” Helton said, “looking
through all the detail that led us to make the conclusion.”
In a statement released Monday night, Waltrip said Norris acted alone --
notwithstanding the suspect conversations occurring over Bowyer’s radio
channel before the No. 15 car went around.
“What occurred on the No. 55 radio at the end of Saturday night’s race
in Richmond was a split-second decision made by team spotter Ty Norris
to bring the No. 55 to pit lane and help a teammate earn a place in the
Chase,” Waltrip said. “We regret the decision and its impact. We
apologize to NASCAR, our fellow competitors, partners and fans who were
disappointed in our actions. We will learn from this and move on. As
general manager, Ty Norris has been an integral part of Michael Waltrip
Racing since its founding and has my and (co-owner) Rob Kauffman’s full
The verdict by NASCAR places Newman -- who earlier Monday was introduced as the new driver of Richard Childress Racing’s No. 31 car for next season -- in the Chase as the 12th seed in his final year with Stewart-Haas Racing.
“We commend the sanctioning body for taking the time to do the necessary
due diligence to ensure that the right call was made,” team owner Tony
The ruling did not impact Gordon, who is still left two points short of a playoff berth.
As a result, the Chase will open this weekend with Newman -- who is in
the playoff for the fifth time in his career -- and without Truex, who
due to the penalty will be left to compete not for the championship, but
for 13th place.
“It’s difficult,” Helton said. “It was a tough conversation with Michael
Waltrip Racing and its members. It was difficult as a conversation
internally, because we all wanted to make sure we made the right steps
and did the right things. But we’ll all go to Chicago, we’ll practice,
we’ll qualify, we’ll race, and we’ll get through this.”