The Frontstretch: A Perfect Win "Spoiled?" Bizarre Evidence Leaves Waltrip Victory In Dispute by Thomas Bowles -- Saturday February 19, 2011

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As Michael Waltrip came off Turn 4, all it took to nail down an emotional victory 10 years after the date of Dale Earnhardt’s death – and Waltrip’s own Daytona 500 triumph – was a last-ditch run to pass Elliott Sadler.

It was then that Waltrip’s spoiler went down, too; and everything from that moment on, despite a compelling drive to victory for him, remains under a cloud of uncertainty Saturday morning.

In the midst of palpable emotion, memories of Dale Earnhardt and the significance of the 10-year anniversary overwhelming Waltrip concerns over how and what happened to “spoil” the run to the checkered flag became a hot topic during post-race activity. This much we know: the right side of the spoiler was angled flat, clearly at an illegal angle when Waltrip crossed the line. The bizarre turn of events roused drivers Kasey Kahne and Robby Gordon on Twitter, both questioning its legality before the No. 15 Toyota could even drive its way into Victory Lane.

Immediately, NASCAR confiscated both sides of the spoiler and will take them back to their R&D Center in North Carolina for further inspection. Late Friday night, PR spokesman Kerry Tharp gave some basic speculation on the issue but explained the win will stand regardless of what they find going forward.

“The spoiler broke,” he explained. “It appeared to be a failure on a part, we’re going to look at it and make any determinations past that.”

Here’s what Waltrip had to say on the incident, with two questions posed by Gary Graves of USA Today and myself:

Graves: Obvious question, Michael: What happened with the spoiler on your truck?

Michael Waltrip: I don’t know. I just know if it had fallen off before the checkered, they would have black-flagged me. I guess that last push with, um… I think they said we went a second faster than we did all day long, and then the constant beating on the back of the truck from the other trucks, and then that last push with me on Elliott, all the air off his truck and my truck onto the back just knocked it loose. I’m just so thankful it hung on until the checkered, because I didn’t even know it was an issue. I didn’t even see it until after the race.

Graves: Doug, was there any notice of it in the pits?

No. 15 crew chief Doug Howe: No, there was no damage.

Bowles: Mike, congrats on your very emotional win. In this day and age, we have instant response on Twitter, and to quote Kasey Kahne: “I need to figure out how to get my spoiler to fall off if that’s legal. Wow.” There have been a couple of other drivers saying the same thing; what’s your reaction when you have peers saying that stuff right after a win, and what do you say to people who might view this with a little bit of skepticism?

Waltrip: It’s been a long day.

Under normal, green-flag conditions Waltrip was right; the NASCAR rulebook would mandate a black-flag to fix the equipment, but since it happened so close to the checkered flag no penalty was issued. Of course, there are two sides to every story and Elliott Sadler, the second-place finisher after Waltrip’s sudden boost to the checkered believes the spoiler had nothing to do with him winning the race.

“I asked him [Waltrip] how’d he do that,” Sadler joked. “Where’s the switch [to fold down spoiler?]” Turning serious, he told reporters of his confidence in the victory while focusing on Waltrip’s emotions on this memorable anniversary.

I went to Victory Lane and told him if anybody deserves to win a race today, it’s you,” he said. “You deserve to celebrate tonight and cherish this moment.”

The question now, of course, is whether that moment will be tarnished by probation, a fine, or something worse. Tharp explained the entire three-part piece of the spoiler was instructed to be removed from the car, with the bolts that hold it in place included. That contradicted a NASCAR official, speaking on condition of anonymity after the race who explained, “We don’t tell the teams how to take the spoilers off.”


Notice the way the spoiler’s been taken off the No. 92 truck of Rogers, Friday night’s third-place finisher in the Truck race. Just like all the other trucks in teardown, including the damaged truck of Kyle Busch, the bolts that once secured the spoiler remain in place.


Compare that to Waltrip’s rear end, missing not just the spoiler but the bolts that come along with it. NASCAR had to take the bolts as part of a look at the entire spoiler, where spokesman Kerry Tharp said they believe a part failed during the final lap of the race to cause the right side to fold down exiting turn 4. Despite the surprising last-lap incident, NASCAR verified Friday night the victory will stand.

So what happens now? It’ll be early in the week before NASCAR issues a ruling, although considering the timing of the incident and the confirmation Friday’s victory will stand, a major penalty seems unlikely at best.

“I don’t think it was seen,” added a second official when contacted. “I guess if they prove how it broke, it won’t be an issue. I am very curious. But generally, you prove what damage caused it and you’re fine.”

The incident comes in the midst of Speedweeks drama over Dale Earnhardt, Sr.‘s 10th anniversary; earlier in the week, the integrity of Dale Jr.‘s pole-winning run was questioned by Liz Clarke of the Washington Post and led to criticism on Pardon The Interruption that set off a firestorm of discussion about the possibility NASCAR would ever “fix” an event. In the meantime, though, Waltrip refuses to focus on any negative talk and will relish in a victory he claims was determined by fate.

“With the 10th anniversary of that terrible day, I believe in God, and I believe everything happens for a reason,” he said. “That’s what enabled me to live the last ten years without total self-destruction, because of that.”

It’ll be a few days, at least, before we know whether that’s the only answer to what we saw on that final lap.

Bryan Davis Keith and Jay Pennell contributed to this report.

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Saturday on the Frontstretch:
Four Burning Questions: Daytona 500
Nationwide Breakdown: Risk Of A Short Field At Phoenix?
Beyond The Cockpit: Another Year, Another Ride For Journeyman Mike Bliss

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
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NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
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02/19/2011 06:30 AM

I like Waltrip, and it definitely was an emotional win.

But in doing my own replays with my DVR, I saw no contact from the spoiler being up to the spoiler being down. Granted, it may have taken a beating at some time during the race and just decided to break on the final lap… but the odds of that seem very slim.

Whether is was rigged or it truly just broke at the perfect time… unless NASCAR comes out and says that it was rigged, the Dictatorship of NASCAR, in which it doesn’t have a non-biased sanctioning body, will always leave this race finish up for debate.

Hell, even if it honestly just broke, don’t the rules then disqualify his truck? Before going to Victory Lane at Daytona, it’s mandatory to get your spoiler angle checked, and obviously Waltrip failed that.

It definitely would have been a little different if Sadler and him were beating and banging on each other on the final lap, and that caused it to fold down… but that wasn’t the case.

Chalk another one up for questionable finishes. That’s 2 out 4 races so far this year, IMO. (In the Shootout, they enforce breaking the yellow line rule, but don’t enforce the forcing of someone below the yellow line rule?)

02/19/2011 07:01 AM

Seem to remember Clint Bowyer getting hammered for less than an 1/8 of an inch. I;m sure that had less effect than having your spoiler lay down flat. BS decision my NASCAR. Again.

Andy D
02/19/2011 07:39 AM

I don’t think that NASCAR ever takes away a win, and that even Bowyer’s win stood. If they find a problem they issue a fine.

This could not have been intentional. It would be impossible to conceal that the spoiler was missing or at a different angle than required.

02/19/2011 08:03 AM

If nascar was truely interested in finding the exact problem, they would have immediately confiscated the truck and shipped it to NC. From the pictures in this article, the back of that truck was not beat on bad enough to cause that much of a failure.
they got the sympathetic win, they don’t care how they got it. what are they going to do fine him a little and set him out for six races or so? He only runs the big track in cup, so give them some money and it will go away.

Doug Price
02/19/2011 08:46 AM

What is the difference if the spoiler is laid back flat or completely off, same result, it isn’t catching the air. The win will stand, but they busted Boyer for a minor degree infraction, they should do the same with the 15.

02/19/2011 09:05 AM

It is what it is, but there is a past history here (think jet fuel)which makes me a little more than skeptical.

02/19/2011 09:17 AM

Everything, I’ve read since says it was just a broken part. Waltrip was in the middle of the pack most of the night, and it was a quite possible the rear got beat on a lot. That being said that was an amazing race. I don’t want to hear anymore NASCAR conspiracy theories. When the Yankees make miraculous comebacks at home they say there are ghosts in the air, not that MLB rigged the results. It was really nice to Michael win that race 10 years to the day of Sr.‘s death. They will probably fine and penalize the 15 truck team at most, and I don’t even think that is a full time truck team this year. In the end, those trucks can put on a hell of a show.

02/19/2011 09:25 AM

Waltrip would never have gotten by Sadler without the trick spoiler. I’m sure that Nascar hoped that nobody would notice, the “broadcasters” barely noticed. Thanks for the very interesting article.

02/19/2011 09:56 AM

I am not a Fan of either of the Waltrip’s but I must admit that Michael did a masterful job in orchestrating the win.First he kept himslf in position and out of trouble until it counted. Then he conned his friend Elliot into setting himself up for the classic last lap pass tha sealed the win. It is lucky for MW that he was not racing Eliot’s boss KH or he would be looking for parts to replace his truck this morning. The spoler failure was another bit of luck and I am not one who thinks its was an intentional failure. Even Chad Knaus couldn’t pull that off.I t boggles the mind to think that MW can be so good at restrictor plate racing and have had such a dismal career in racing at all other tracks.
His real skill is in self promotion and hyping for sponsors and Nascar and he is world class at that

02/19/2011 09:58 AM

I hope no one is surprised by any of this. As if no one has noticed what a corrupt sleaze the CEO of NASCAR has been since the death of his father.

02/19/2011 10:05 AM

I like how Speed cut away from the NASCAR offical that was trying to measure the spoiler angle on the 15 truck when it pulled on pit road. Just another way for them to promote the 10 year of Dales death and maybe sell out the 500. Shame on them.

Sue Rarick
02/19/2011 10:15 AM

There are a whole bunch of people that need to go out and buy some tin hats and keep an eye out for those black helicopters. The guys that put that truck together have to be the smartest people on the planet to design it to fail on the last corner, taking into account the green/white checker.

The facts are… It was detaching around turn 3. There was a definite wiggle to the car at the moment the right side broke. The effect of only one side changing angle would make the truck much harder to drive, so any speed advantage would have been negated by the loss of handling… Ok now everyone go back to making their tin hats.

02/19/2011 10:21 AM

I don’t understand how all you people can always be so angry at NASCAR and still watch the sport. Just stop watching and it won’t bother you. As for the lack of decision by NASCAR, they never make a decision like this until around Tuesday the following week. Boyer kept his win. If you people had more than a rudimentary education, you would realize that there is no way this is a conspiracy. Hundreds of people would have to be involved and corporate sponsors would never spend millions of dollars on this sport if it was fixed. They want their machines to win every week, not other sponsors’ The more their machines are winning, the better return on their investment.

02/19/2011 10:40 AM

Professional “rasslin” has never done it so well. What a hokey bunch of crap.

02/19/2011 10:43 AM

They didn’t dare “script” the 500 (much), so they used the Truck Race to stage a pathos-thon, recreating the now (in)famous banter between Mikey & Darryl at the end of Sr.‘s last 500. Waltrip should have been disqualified the minute his spoiler “malfunctioned”. Period. And, BTW, Mikey, that NAPA commercial is downright tasteless, and if #3 were still around, it would have ended with a black racing shoe planted squarely in you shaking booty. Shame on you!

02/19/2011 10:47 AM

I’ll give Michael the win, but if Jr wins the nationwide race today, I will really start wondering.

Don Mei
02/19/2011 11:35 AM

Gee Bob, I have a couple of masters degrees; does that qualify as more than rudimentary? I still get angry at Nascar for their lack of consistency in making decisions. Must I wear my “I love Brian” T-shirt when I watch an event?

02/19/2011 01:05 PM

Nice to see all the new and occasional posters and


Bad Wolf
02/19/2011 04:34 PM

I wonder what Nascar would have done if it was Robby Gordon.

Christopher Pivarnik
02/19/2011 05:58 PM

If there was some sort of conspiracy why in the world would Nascar let jr go 93 point races without a win? It will always be there, if jr or waltrip win race Sunday it will be a conspiracy.People have nothing better to do but look for the FIX in something. I say to those people get a life and watch something else. Lets remember clints win was NOT taken away.No reason Nascar will take mikeys win away.

Bad Wolf
02/19/2011 06:11 PM

Nascar did not take Richard Pettys 200th win from the 1984 Firecracker 400 either. The precedent has been set and shady wins are never taken away.

As for Jr, you have to actually have the talent to make it happen when you get the nod.

02/19/2011 06:27 PM

Conspiracy theorists and tinfoil hats won’t go away until rules are published and consistently enforced. NASCAR seems to be losing credibility as fast as it’s losing fans and viewers.

02/19/2011 07:08 PM

One of the distractions to watching a race is the broadcasters. They are all as phony as a 3 dollar bill, especially Waltrip.

02/19/2011 08:46 PM

You guys keep focusing on the beating and banging that did or did not happen to the truck. Your forgetting 1 thing. AIR, he was in the pack all night and right behind Elliot pushing him, The trucks have a new blade that runs long ways on the bed, could have just been to much preasure, and a part Broke? Or it could be a higher power at work?? I say both

02/19/2011 10:39 PM

My god, what a complete BS article,written by a “respected Nascar scribe” who points out every sinister possibility. Most of these things will never happen and he knows it. It does work, because we see the tin-foil chapeau crowd is well represented in the comments. I am no Waltrip fan, but the bias is visible. After the Jr. district attorney style question TB asked him, Mikey’s response was gracious. Dale Sr. would have invited him to discuss the matter privately, outside.

Chad Williams
02/19/2011 11:08 PM

Yeah I was wondering if anyone has any information about the #15 truck Michael Waltrip drove last night to the victory..

Does anyone know if there are plans to make a diecast version of the truck, or if there is one already available????

Any info will be greatly appreciated…..

02/19/2011 11:09 PM

Good article….I am sure that BF has got everything covered and everyone knows that them Waltrip Boys and France are more than just good buddies. Notice how popular and promoted they have been since Sr. Death. You see them on everthing Nascar. Waltrips career stats are one of the worst in the sport but the Nascar media machine has him as the face of Nascar. You would have thought that he was greater than any driver in Nascar history. Yeah right!!!LOL!! the spoiler failed on its on….some people will believe whatever a con will tell them… all it takes is a little act of sweetness and look the part! LOL.
Perfect timing on the Book Mikey……..use Dale Sr. to further promote yourself…..just like perfect timing on the spoiler……LOL!

02/19/2011 11:30 PM

Think about the amount of trucks that could have won this race and been called a conspiracy theory. 1) Mikey. 2) Austin Dillon. 3) Jeffrey Earnhardt. 4) Joey Coulter. I trust that the spoiler broke. Hiding a system that lays it back would be impossible, and it’s equally as impossible to prepare it to break on the last lap (or late enough to not get black-flagged). I think a small penalty is in order, maybe 50 points, just because it clearly gave them an advantage, but nothing more than that.

02/20/2011 05:12 AM

NASCAR fans…STUPID, STUPID, STUPID. Quit complaining or quit watching. Waltrip won get over it!

02/20/2011 01:36 PM

I saw the spoiler and it broke at the fold/bend leaving the flange still attached to the bed top and the rest only attached to the support bolts, couldnt tell if there was any sign of an impact from the angle I was but I can just imagine the forces present when another truck is pushing and the spoiler flexing between each change in air passing over and around it caused a stress failure in the metal at the fold/bend to make the attachemt flang. instead of a folded/bent flange a welded one would have prevented the stress point. their was noway anyone could have predicted a failure at a certain point in the race. Noone would have intended the part breaking knowing it would result in a black flag within a couple of laps.
It is simple the fold/bend in the metal to make the mounting flange caused a stressed point in the material at the fold/bend and the flexing from the changing air pressures created in each turn and when another truck is pushing or being pushed caused a small amount of flex at the stressed area an eventually it seperated there, Michaels luck was that it was just as he was going to pass. But remember it was during a green white checker lap, so it was outside of the original number of laps. so if it was intended to last 100 laps it did what it was intended to do. but the next corner would have probably put him in the wall since he was out front and had the full force of the wind on the intact half.
Hey Dale did it, leave it at that and move on.

02/21/2011 02:39 PM

What a bunch of crap. If this win is allowed to stand, NASCAR sucks. MW is a cheater, it is the only way he can win. 4 wins in over 30 years racing speaks for itself.

02/22/2011 09:57 PM

What they did to Boywer was a bunch of crap.Waltrip should be severely penalized.

02/23/2011 12:56 PM

Of course the booth boys are trying to avoid talking about the spoiler. They couldn’t stop talking about “the best plate racer there is” winning a truck race. I beleive that’s what DW said and I almost lost my dinner after he said it. Can he be any more unprofessional? (schilling for Nascar, stupid 3 boogity’s and cheering for his favorite drivers/sponsors/manufacturers.)

Nascar should have immediately when it happened, put him at the tail end of the lead lap and given the win to Sadler. It won’t happen though. Just more inconsistent interpretations of the rules based on who it is and what the cirumstances are.

People wonder why there are conpiracty theory’s? Its because Nascar has been pulling this stuff for years.

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