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Monday, September 9, 2013

Richmond race controversy, problems, solutions

checkered flag
It is almost 36 hours after the race at Richmond--the final race in the regular 2013 season--when Clint Bowyer spun out and changed the dynamic of the race, the season, and the potential championship.

Twitter is still abuzz with tweets moving faster than cars drive on the race track. NASCAR fans who are furious that the Chase for the Championship has seemingly been tainted.

When I wrote about this yesterday, in Ryan Newman gets screwed again, I was unaware of Jeff Gordon's situation. He too was ripped off by seemingly unsavory action on the track by the Michael Waltrip Racing, (MWR) teammates--Clint Bowyer, #15; Brian Vickers, #55; and Martin Truex, Jr., #56. Personally, I don't think Truex did anything wrong, while the other two seemingly followed team orders.

To Jeff Gordon's credit, he tweeted yesterday, "Was feeling pretty bad about missing the #Chase but after seeing all the details coming out now I feel even worse for @RyanNewman39."
When I wrote about this yesterday, I had only seen the conversation and video replay where Bowyer seemingly jerked the wheel and manipulated the throttle to cause a spin just after he was briefed by his crew chief about Newman leading the race.

Clint Bowyer audio:

With nine laps to go

Spotter Brett Griffin: "#39 is going to win the race. … Well, that kinda sucks. Nine more right here."

Crew chief Brian Pattie: "Is your arm starting to hurt? I bet it's hot in there. Itch it."

Clint Bowyer: "Oh yeah."

Griffin: "Right with you, 88. Right with you, right with you, right with you."
Pattie: "I think that tire was going down the whole time, man."

Here is the video:

Brian Vickers audio:

With four laps to go

Crew: "We're probably going to pit here on green."

Vickers: "Are you talking to me?

Crew: "Yeah, we're going to pit."

Vickers: "What? I've got to pit? … I don't understand. Pit right now?"

Crew: "You've got to pit this time. We need that one point."

Vickers: "10-4. Do I got a tire going down?"

Crew: "Yeah. … Come down pit road right now, get a good look at it."

Vickers: "Did you find anything?"

Crew: "I'll see you after the race, Brian. I owe you a kiss."

Thanks to Jeff Gluck, USA Today Sports for this audio transcript

Race for the Chase was ever so close

Clint Bowyer was already slated to be in the Chase, despite the fact that he hadn't won a race all season. (Neither have Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Kurt Busch, which is controversial in itself when they are contending for a championship over drivers who have won races!) Bowyer was solidly inside the top 10, so he had little to lose.

For Martin Truex, Jr. though, the second MWR racing team to potentially contend for a championship, he had to earn the final wildcard chase spot. To do so, Joey Logano would have to remain in the 10th place in points. Also, Truex would have to earn more points than Ryan Newman, with whom he had been so close, not just in this race, but throughout the year. Both had won a race during the season. 

Kasey Kahne with two wins was guaranteed a wildcard position. If Jeff Gordon raced his way into the top 10 in points, he would have knocked Logano out. Logano would have taken the second wildcard, knocking Truex and Newman out of contention. 

Ryan Newman was leading the race though, which would have guaranteed he would have the second wildcard, which would have knocked out Truex and Logano. It looked as though Newman would have won the race with 9 laps to go. That was when Bowyer spun and caused a caution resetting the field. Newman lost the lead after pitting.

By Bowyer spinning, Truex ended up tying with Newman in points. The tie went to him because he had one second place finish. Newman had none. It didn't matter that Newman finished ahead of him on the track or that Newman led several laps during that race. 

Tiebreaker: I find the tiebreaking criteria very disconcerting because NASCAR doesn't even keep a 2nd place finish statistic on their driver stats page. The criteria for a tiebreaker used to be the most top 5's and top 10's. In that case, Newman would have been the victor, since he had one more top 10 than Truex.

It is my contention that the position on the field at the conclusion of the race should be the tiebreaker. That would be logical, simple, straight forward, and not controversial. I guess NASCAR likes the controversy.

Although at first blush, NASCAR brass has stated there doesn't appear to be any wrongdoing, NASCAR fans and even the analysts Saturday night--Rusty Wallace, Brad Daughterty, and Ray Evernham--issued their opinion that Clint Bowyer definitely spun out on purpose to help his teammate Martin Truex, Jr.

That video can be seen here:

Not just Bowyer's spin to bring out the final caution, but the final restart is also questionable

When Carl Edwards, the eventual winner took the green flag, he was in the second position behind Paul Menard. Yet when the green flag waived, Edwards was clearly ahead of Menard. This observation was even pointed out by Dale Jarrett in the broadcast booth.

NASCAR fans are so upset they are petitioning Mike Helton to have Michael Waltrip Racing drivers disqualified from the Chase for the Championship.

The petition, as of Monday morning contained over 3,000 signatures. It is located at: here.

The following is the text, which includes the above video of Bowyer's spin: 

Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman have been screwed out of Chase spots through the work of cheaters. Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex deserve to lose their chance at a championship for their actions at Richmond on Saturday, September 7. There is video evidence of Clint Bowyer spinning himself out to bring out a caution, which can be penalized at NASCAR's discretion. Bowyer's team also kept him in pit road for longer than necessary, and Vickers slowed down on the last lap to ensure Logano would make the top ten. Michael Waltrip Racing fixed the race and the championship and should be punished accordingly. NASCAR needs to put an end to teams and drivers who play by their own rules. This is not just for Jeff Gordon. This is not just for Ryan Newman. This is for the fans. We watch NASCAR expecting fair and competitive races, and that clearly did not happen at Richmond. Michael Waltrip Racing did not just affect the outcome of one race; they affected the next ten races AND the entire season. 

Earlier this year, NASCAR penalized Jimmie Johnson for jumping the restart. This should be done to Carl Edwards as well. Clearly, he should not have overtaken Menard in the final restart. 

If NASCAR penalizes Edwards, that would give the win to Kurt Busch and put Ryan Newman in second place. Newman would then tie with Martin Truex, Jr. in that category. They each have 6 top-5's finishes. Newman has one more tenth place finish, therefore, Newman should occupy the final Chase spot. Newman should be in; Truex would be out.

NASCAR says it is taking this situation under review and will not comment until a decision is reached. In the meantime, the beat goes on.

My view: Cheating to help yourself advance is one thing, but cheating to screw all others is quite another. I believe a line has been drawn for NASCAR to maintain any kind of credibility. Something needs to be done before the Chase commences next week at Chicagoland Speedway. There are already plenty of empty seats at race venues. That will only continue if this kind of blatant activity isn't addressed. 

I believe Carl Edwards should be penalized for his faulty restart. Ryan Newman earned and should be awarded the final wildcard place in the Championship Chase since he bested Truex during the final race. Clint Bowyer should be parked, for as long as NASCAR determines. And Michael Waltrip Racing should be penalized. 

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