In light of all the discussion surrounding race manipulation following the final race before the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Richmond International Speedway, another story was brought to light this afternoon by FOX Sports.
Joey Logano and Penske Racing may have got their way into the Chase via paying or a trade with David Gilliland and Front Row Motorsports.
The Associated Press posted a transcript this afternoon of the late race audio on Gilliland’s radio. Gilliland’s spotter says goes that Logano wants a spot on the track and that it could help down the road.
"You tell that spotter up there it better pay big," replies someone believed to be Gilliland crew chief Frank Kerr.
"Yeah, it's not the spotter, it's the whole committee," the spotter says.
"The committee knows what I've been asking for," Kerr says.
"We've got the big dog and all of his cronies," the spotter replies, a possible reference to Roger Penske, who watches NASCAR races from the spotter stand.
Kerr then says: "Travis knows what I've been asking for," an apparent reference to Penske Racing competition director Travis Geisler.
Logano passed Gilliland after the restart and finished 22nd, ahead of Gililand. The finish allowed Logano to the 10th spot in the Championship picture by one point over Jeff Gordon. Even without the point, though, Logano would’ve won the tie breaker.
In a similar yet bigger situation, Michael Waltrip Racing played out a series of events to get Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase. Clint Bowyer spun to bring out a late race caution while making an odd pit stop, and teammate Brian Vickers made an odd pit stop after a conversation with spotter and MWR GM Ty Norris.
On Lap 396 Vickers is told he’s got to pit and he replies, “I’ve got to WHAT?”
“We’re probably going to pit here on green.”
“Are you talking to me?”
“Yeah, we’re going to pit.”
“”What? I’ve got to pit?”
“I don’t understand. Pit right now?”
“You’ve got to pit this time. We need that 1 point.”
“10-4. Do I got a tire going down?”
“Yeah. Come down pit road right now, get a good look at it.”
(After he pits) “Did you find anything?”
“I’ll see you after the race, Brian, I owe you a kiss.”
The result was NASCAR laying down a huge penalty….
“We’re announcing that NASCAR is reacting to Michael Waltrip Racing by fining Michael Waltrip, owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, $300,000, suspending Ty Norris indefinitely, and each team of Michael Waltrip Racing will be fined 50 owner points and 50 driver points,” Mike Helton announced last night. “This naturally is a very significant reaction from NASCAR. As multiple car owners have become a very positive integral part of our support, also comes with it, though, responsibility from NASCAR and as well the car owners, to maintain a fair and level playing field.”
“We’ve discussed, 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 or step out, as we have had to today.”
Whether the same will happen to Logano and Gilliland is yet to be seen. NASCAR has announced they’re looking into it, but haven’t determined anything yet.
Teams have worked together in the past, whether to let a driver have better position coming down pit road or to lead a lap, but not in this way that has been uncovered following Richmond.
Whether NASCAR considers this beyond the line is yet to be seen considering the circumstances. However, if they don’t do anything, is that calling a dodge-edged sword following the MWR penalties?