Just when it looked like there couldn’t possibly be any more drama from Richmond, NASCAR managed to add a little more. After reviewing radio transmissions between the 15 of Clint Bowyer and the 55 of Brian Vickers, both of whom drive for Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR), it was determined that Bowyer and Vickers each played a crucial role in getting their teammate, Martin Truex, Jr. into the Chase via a wild-card position. Bowyer spun out to bring out the final caution and coming to the restart, Vickers was ordered to pit by MWR general manager Ty Norris, giving up a position to help ensure Truex got the points he needed to make the Chase.
While NASCAR could not say for certain that Bowyer spun on purpose, they did have enough evidence to prove that Vickers took a fall for his teammate. Because of that, NASCAR penalized all three MWR cars 50 driver and owner’s points, suspended Norris, fined the entire organization $300,000, and because the points penalties occurred before the Chase was reset, it removed Truex from the Chase and put Ryan Newman in Truex’s spot as the last wild-card.
Then on Wednesday, audio from the 38 car of David Gilliland, who drives for Front Row Motorsports, revealed that there may have been a request from the 22 of Joey Logano, who drives for Penske Racing, to have Gilliland give up his spot in the running order to Logano to ensure that Logano made the Chase. Both Front Row Motorsports and Penske race Fords, so it was seen as a one Ford driver helping another. Logano passed Gilliland or Gilliland gave up his spot on the final restart and Logano made the Chase over Jeff Gordon. Because of the radio communication, NASCAR has put both Penske and Front Row Motorsports on probation until December 31.
To top it all off, on Friday at Chicagoland, NASCAR announced that due to all the events that took place at Richmond, they would be adding a 13th driver to the Chase and that driver would be Jeff Gordon. Their reason was because of the way the events unfolded, Gordon didn’t have a fair opportunity to make the Chase. So to sum up, Gordon and Newman made the Chase, Truex is out and Bowyer and Logano remain in despite what may or may not have taken place at Richmond.
By the way, there was a race to run at Chicagoland. Congratulations to Matt Kenseth and his win at Chicagoland. This is Kenseth’s sixth win of the season. Don’t forget that this is his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing after spending the first 13 years of his career driving for Roush Racing.
Now it is back to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Last year, Denny Hamlin overcame a bad qualifying effort to pick up the win and give himself a good opportunity to win the title. New Hampshire used to be the Chase-opening race from 2004 to 2010. The 2005 fall race at New Hampshire saw defending series champion Kurt Busch lose his cool after an accident with Scott Riggs in the first five laps ruined his chances for defending his title. In 2006, Jimmie Johnson finished 39th but rallied to win his first of five championships, proving it’s possible to overcome a bad first race in the Chase. That wasn’t the case for Kyle Busch in 2008. He came in as the number one seed thanks to his eight wins on the season, and mechanical troubles doomed him and dropped him into the Chase cellar. Clint Bowyer picked up his first career win here in 2007 and his third career win in 2010, but that 2010 win came with a bit of controversy. Bowyer’s rear bumper was deemed out of alignment and NASCAR penalized the team and the penalty essentially took Bowyer out of the championship hunt.
Defending race winner: Denny Hamlin
Most wins among active drivers: Jeff Burton (4)
Prediction:Ryan Newman. Newman has three career wins here, including his first win in a rain-shortened race in 2002. He performed well in the July race earlier this year. He will be leaving Stewart-Haas Racing after this year and he would love nothing more than to pick up another win before the season is out.