I've watched the replays, heard the interviews, and read the reviews. Ryan Newman got screwed again.
Newman did everything right. He drove the wheels off his Quicken Loans Chevrolet. He was so close to winning the race that he could probably taste it. Then something went horribly wrong!
First: With Newman leading and less than ten laps to go, Clint Bowyer spins, seemingly out of nowhere. His teammate, Martin Truex, Jr., who drove a mediocre race all night, was the beneficiary when the field was reconfigured.
Rumors are flying in this Monday morning quarterbacking session. Are there suspicions that Bowyer's spin was a 'team order' issued by Michael Waltrip Racing in order to tip the scales of a very tight contest in favor of their driver--Truex.
Considering both Truex and Bowyer work for Michael Waltrip Racing, that is not much of a stretch. Waltrip has a history of cheating. Who can forget what has been called the biggest cheating scandal in NASCAR, when Waltrip was penalized for a jet fuel additive in his race car before his new Toyota team even took to the track at Daytona. NASCAR had to do something. Waltrip was penalized heavily, but he was still allowed to race. He isn't a stranger to the kind of behavior that could derail a seemingly good run either, evident in the incident in 2007 when he rolled his car not far from his home and cut out quick, being charged with leaving the scene of the accident. Who doesn't think Waltrip lied about being drunk to avoid the penalty? He was charged with reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.
Newman and Waltrip are not friends. When Waltrip was driving, there were numerous racing incidents that caused bad blood between them.
Then there was the interview with Clint Bowyer. He looked guilty as sin when he was asked point blank if he spun out on purpose.
"No, I think we had a flat tire or something,..." as he changed the subject and refused to look Jamie Little in the eye or at the camera.
That combined with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who said, "He just spun right out. It was the craziest thing I ever saw."
It was common knowledge--even to Waltrip who wanted his driver to excel-- that a second win would ensure Newman made the Chase.
Second: Had there not been a caution, Newman, who was leading the race with nine laps to go, likely would have sailed to the finish. He had the fastest car on the track and already passed all the leaders. A win would have ensured a wildcard in the Chase. It should have stayed green. But it didn't. There is no question that Newman's pit crew dropped the ball, which left Newman to try to fight his way back with not enough time to do it. Stuff happens!
Third: It would have been one thing if Martin Truex, Jr. drove a competitive race with Newman. But that wasn't the case. Newman drove a near flawless race. The two tied in the points, but the tie went to Truex. Given the race to decide a winner, that was unfair. Newman finished ahead of Truex and he led laps. Those criteria should have been used to determine the tiebreaker.
Instead, NASCAR used the number of 2nd place finishes as the tiebreaker. Truex had one; Newman had none. However, if NASCAR would have followed their own rules and black-flagged Carl Edwards for jumping the restart, which is clearly visible on the replay, Newman would have finished second instead of third and would have tied Truex.
NASCAR's inconsistent race calls may also be responsible for Truex being in the chase instead of Newman.
In addition, NASCAR's bogus criteria for the tiebreaker leads much to be desired as well. It is not an easy thing for the public to review second-place finishes throughout the year. NASCAR doesn't even include that as a category on its statistics page. That may explain why they used to determine a tiebreaker by top 5's and top 10's. If that were the criteria, Newman would have edged out Truex.
Martin Truex Jr. in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup
Newman had 12 top 10 finishes and one pole, while Truex had 11 top 10's and no poles. They each had 6 top 5's.
Isn't it time NASCAR polices its own sport before it ceases to exist?