Starting the race from pole position in the Team Penske #2 Ford at Richmond International Raceway on Sunday, Brad Keselowski held onto the lead for all but 17 of the 400 laps of the Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 and crossed the finish line in first place, to claim his fourth win of the season and put him in the number one spot in the Sprint Cup Standings. As the last race for drivers to qualify for the Chase on the new win-and-in rules, fans were no doubt expecting a lot more action, but there appeared to be no serious challenger for Keselowski and the race ended with Jeff Gordon in second place, followed by Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick in third, fourth and fifth places respectively.
As the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, Keselowski needed a strong finish at Richmond in order to make the Chase field. As it turned out he finished in 17th place and missed out on the opportunity to defend his title. This time around he is in a good position to reclaim the title. In a post-race interview Keselowski noted that when he pulled into Victory Lane, he had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming, going on to say that “These are nights you don’t forget as a driver and you live for.” Describing the 2013 season as a “bit of a kick in the butt”, Keselowski concedes that it did motivate the Penske Team to “find another level”.
The race was fairly incident free apart from the fact that, with 71 laps of the race remaining, an apparently inebriated fan climbed to the top of the catch fence between the track and the grandstand resulting in a caution while he was removed. Most of the field used the caution as an opportunity for a pit stop, with Keselowski remaining ahead of the pack back into the race.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup standings are:
1. Brad Keselowski #2 – Ford
2. Jeff Gordon #24 – Chevrolet
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – #88 Chevrolet
4. Jimmie Johnson – #48 Chevrolet
5. Joey Logano – #22 Ford
6. Kevin Harvick – #4 Chevrolet
7. Carl Edwards – #99 Ford
8. Kyle Busch – #18 Toyota
9. Denny Hamlin – #11 Toyota
10. Kurt Busch – #41 Chevrolet
11. Kasey Kahne – #5 Chevrolet
12. Aric Almirola – #43 Ford
13. AJ Allmendinger – #47 Chevrolet
14. Matt Kenseth – #20 Toyota
15. Greg Biffle – #16 Ford
16. Ryan Newman – #31 Chevrolet
Who’s behind this alleged conspiracy?
Who was behind the alleged manipulation of this weekend’s race Saturday night at Richmond International Speedway? The speculation has grown rampant online and on all social media platforms. Who was the the man on the grassy knoll who decided to pull the trigger and cause such mayhem to our sport?
Was this the brain child of Brian Pattie, the Crew Chief of Clint Bowyers #15 car? We know he was on the radio telling Clint to “itch” his arm. Were Clint Bowyer and Brian Pattie secretly laying in wait since Phoenix for their chance to finally retaliate against Jeff Gordon? I honestly do not believe they had this plan the whole time but it appears it may have been the icing on the cake all while helping a teammate make the Chase. What better reason to pit in the last three laps and fall back behind Joey Logano so he could take 10th place, removing Gordon, all while pushing teammate Martin Truex Jr. into the wild card spot.
How about Clint Bowyer, the fun and sarcastic friendly teammate of Truex Jr. and Brian Vickers? I doubt this was Clint’s plan but he was certainly played the biggest role. After being told to “itch” his arm, Bowyer’s car suddenly spins on track, and causes what may become one of the most unforgettable and penalty laced cautions in NASCAR history.
Maybe Ty Norris, the General Manager for Michael Waltrip Racing, was the alleged Mastermind behind this whole debacle? Jenna Fryer and the Associated Press reviewed radio communications between Norris and driver of the #55 car Brian Vickers, teammate of Marting Truex Jr. The AP reported the following was said; “We’re probably going to pit here on green,” Norris says. “Are you talking to me?” a surprised Vickers asks. Vickers continued to question the call, at one point asking, “I don’t understand, pit right now?” “You’ve got to pit this time. We need that 1 point,” Norris replies. “10-4. Do I got a tire going down?” Vickers asked. Obviously Norris knew something needed to be done to change to order of things. After the pit when Vickers questions if anything was wrong with his tire, Norris just tells him he owes him a kiss. Lucky Brian Vickers, the newest driver to the MWR team, is now undoubtedly wrapped up into this and is certainly a part of it, not that I think any of this was his idea.
Martin Truex Jr. seemed to have the most to gain from this whole situation. He earned a spot in the coveted Chase for the Spint Cup Championship, which means millions of dollars for his team and the potential to be the next Sprint Cup Champion. Truex was running his race hard and was almost there, but it seems a little push from his team is what inevitably got him there. Truex Jr. certainly did not do anything illegal during the race, but what consequences does he now face if his team helped him get there?
Or was it the man himself, was it the wizard, Michael Watrip? Could it be that that one of NASCAR’s most celebrated faces from a legendary NASCAR family could be behind all of this? What if Mikey was behind the whole thing, he was been unusually quiet since the end of the race, considering the pride he must feel being an owner with two of his cars in the Chase. It is an impressive feat for any organization, especially a newer younger group who has risen so quickly.
Well NASCAR has come to the conclusion of their investigation, and they certainly did things much faster than the Warren Commission, but will fans be satisfied they did things right? It seems GM Ty Norris is the Mastermind after all. He was even thrown under the bus by MWR team owner Michael Waltrip in a tweet, with Michael stating, “This wasn’t a master plan or about a spin. It’s about a split-second decision made by Ty to try to help a teammate. I stand by my people.”
Well okay, I guess that takes care of that and Michael is ready to forget this ordeal and let Norris hang out there with the most lengthy penalty, an indefinite suspension by NASCAR. NASCAR President Mike Helton spoke at length regarding the penalties facing MWR which included; a $300,000 fine to MWR, loss of 50 points each levied against Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, and Brian Vickers, and placing all three crew chiefs on probation until 12/31/2013.
Martin Truex Jr. seems to be the biggest loser though, with his 50 point penalty now bouncing him out of the Chase, and putting Ryan Newman in the Chase. Truex appeared to be the only person in this whole investigation who did not even do anything wrong, but he must pay the price for his team’s behavior according to NASCAR.
“Based upon our review of Saturday night’s race at Richmond, it is our determination that the MWR organization attempted to manipulate the outcome of the race. 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 our commitment to that.” NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton.
I agree with Mike Helton on many points, especially when he said this is supposed to be fun, and we will move on. I know we will continue to debate if this was enough, or why Jeff Gordon was’t put back in the Chase, but at some point we do need to close this and move forward with the Chase. I do feel Michael Waltrip himself has walked out of this smelling like a rose for all that has happened, shocked he let Ty Norris take the fall for him and his organization, disappointed he did not take the reigns of a leader.
Article submitted by Mike Sanford – twitter: @msanford146
NASCAR’s regular season came to a close Saturday night at Richmond International Speedway, but fans don’t seem too satisfied with the way things ended. Late race cautions and pit stops mixed up orders and saw many familiar faces now looking from the outside in at the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Fans took to social media in droves following a late caution caused by a spin out by the #15 car driven by Clint Bowyer, they were outraged, and they may have good reason to be.
Ryan Newman and his #39 battled to first place with 7 laps to go in a must win situation to be included in the Chase, all while Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano continued to struggle through the field to get and keep themselves in the Chase. This is when things got strange. Clint Bowyer was told by spotter Brett Griffin that Newman and the #39 were in first and were gonna win this race, inevitably knocking out Bowyer’s Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. Bowyer’s crew chief Brian Pattie then took to the radio saying to Bowyer, “Is your arm starting to hurt,” “I bet it’s getting hot in there. Itch it.” Shortly thereafter Bowyer had a well-placed spin out which brought the caution out. During this caution cars pitted, Ryan Newman lost first and eventually did not make the Chase, losing the tiebreaker with, you guessed it, Martin Truex Jr. “He just spun right out,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said afterward of Bowyer. “That’s the craziest thing I ever saw. …He was hemming around on the brakes and jerking the car around, and then the thing just spun out. It was crazy. I don’t know what was going on.”
Dale Jr. has been around racing his whole life, this isn’t his first big rodeo. He seemed shocked about what just occurred in front of him and appeared to not want to “dime out” Clint Bowyer. Clint Bowyer’s interview didn’t make matters any better. The usually jovial and sarcastic Bowyer was quite calm and and appeared to be the cat that ate the canary, denying any intentional spin out and suggested a flat tire may have caused the mishap. No evidence suggests this notion, and NASCAR made no official comments on the issue, leaving every analyst, whether in the box or on the couch, to come to their own conclusions. Rusty Wallace and Ray Everham came out of the box swinging, making their feelings known immediately with point blank answers. I appreciate and value their opinions and they didn’t dance around the issue at all, which I find to be rare for most analysts. As more information developed throughout the night on Twitter, more questions came to light about MWR, and why Brian Vickers was driving like my mother-in-law on the last lap. Was their team ordered to make moves to help Martin Truex Jr. get in the Chase for the Sprint Cup? The biggest question in my mind is, where do we go from here?
Cheating is certainly not a new idea to NASCAR. Since its inception teams continue to fight for the edge, seeking any gray area in the rule book to get an advantage over the other competitors. Some would say a crew chief isn’t worth his weight in salt if he wasn’t doing this. Crew Chiefs and engineers routinely test and push the envelope to get ahead. I would dare to say that this has what has advanced the sport and pushed the innovation level as far as it has. But this all happens behind the scenes and in the garage where everyone has a level playing field, where everyone can experiment if they choose to. This isn’t ripping first place from a seasoned veteran with seven laps to go in what was the hail mary of his season, albeit maybe his career.
I grew up loving sports and think there is nothing better than working with a team player. It was nice when we would let the little kid win when shooting hoops, but this isn’t shooting hoops in the mini park. People win because they deserve to win, not because the team created a win and changed the course of the game. NASCAR now faces a crossroads and has stated they are now investigating the end of the race. NASCAR continuously faces declining attendance, declining ratings, and has been fighting for its life for years. The governing body has done a great job to promote NASCAR and has taken many positive steps to elevate its game. Now the fans have spoken, and they’re angry, they want to watch a sport that cannot be changed by a team at the end of the game. This is not about cheating, it’s about the integrity of the sport. It is about being able to tamper with an entire season and losing the faith of the people whose backs you built this sport on.
What will NASCAR do if they can even prove that anything was done intentionally? What future steps will they take to ensure this does not happen again and give the fans a sense of security that this isn’t a fixed sport and has not become professional wrestling? The worst part about this is some are elated that Bowyer is such a team player, and other MWR supporters are in such denial they are making fans feel like they are ignorant and just unintelligent spectators with no knowledge of the sport they love so much. Some classified this last night like it was a conspiracy of Kennedy proportions. The more radio transmissions I hear, the less of a conspiracy theorist I become. The more quotes from MWR crew members on pit road I read, the more disappointed I become. As much as so many wanted this to go away, it’s just getting worse. It’s time for NASCAR to put an end to this conspiracy and validate the feelings of its fans. Michael Waltrip needs to take reign of this situation he has created before his career as an owner spirals out of control faster than Bowyer’s car.
Article submitted by Mike Sanford – twitter: @msanford146
As the last race in the season before the ten-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, the Federated Auto Parts 400 is of utmost importance to drivers hoping to be among the top twelve in the standings. 2012’s winner was Clint Bowyer driving for Michael Waltrip Racing. Who will take the checkered flag this year? Don’t miss the racing action! For more information go to nascar.com
Date: 7 September 2013
Venue: Richmond International Raceway
This 350km NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event is held annually at Sonoma Raceway. As a road course, Sonoma Raceway features 12 turns on a hilly course with total elevation of 160 feet. The 2012 race was won by Clint Bowyer driving for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Date: 23 June 2013
Venue: Sonoma Raceway
Country: United States