The Frontstretch: Michael Waltrip Racing Penalized Heavily by NASCAR; Newman Replaces Truex In Chase by Phil Allaway -- Monday September 9, 2013

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On Saturday night, Clint Bowyer spun out on his own with eight laps to go in the Federated Auto Parts 400. The spin resulted in a caution that ultimately affected the outcome of the race. In addition, Bowyer and teammate Brian Vickers were forced to pit after the green-flag came back out in order to ensure that Joey Logano would get into the Chase for the Sprint Cup on points and MWR driver Martin Truex, Jr. would earn the final Wild Card.

The gamesmanship was clear cut. Fan outrage was palpable. Michael Waltrip Racing’s Facebook page was besieged by angry fans. NASCAR released a statement Sunday night that simply said that they were investigating the circumstances.

On Monday night, NASCAR concluded their investigation and brought down the hammer on Michael Waltrip Racing for their tactics.

In a press release, NASCAR stated that Michael Waltrip Racing violated Section 12-4 of the Sprint Cup Series Rule Book, which refers to “Actions Detrimental to Stock Car Racing.” The penalties are nearly unprecedented.

All three of MWR’s teams have been docked 50 owners points each. Bowyer and Truex have also been docked 50 championship driver points. Brian Vickers did not lose any driver points since he is not eligible to earn driver points in the Sprint Cup Series.

All of the point penalties were taken pre-points reset. As a result, Bowyer will start the Chase 15 points behind leader Matt Kenseth. Truex’s penalty drops him from a tie for 12th with Ryan Newman to 17th. Truex has thus been removed from the Chase. Newman, who finished third on Saturday night, will claim the second Wild Card. The No. 55 team drops from 19th to 22nd in owners’ points as a result of penalty.

In addition, Ty Norris, Michael Waltrip Racing’s Executive Vice President and General Manager (in addition to being the spotter for the No. 55) has been suspended indefinitely for his role in the collusion. Michael Waltrip Racing as a whole has been fined $300,000, and all three crew chiefs (Brian Pattie for Bowyer, Scott Miller for Vickers, and Chad Johnston for Truex) have been placed on probation through December 31st.

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s Vice President of Competition, issued a statement in the press release about their findings: “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,” Pemberton said. “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.”

Team co-owner Michael Waltrip came to the defense of his team after the announcement in a statement:

“What occurred on the No. 55 radio at the end of Saturday night’s race in Richmond was a split-second decision made by team spotter Ty Norris to bring the No. 55 to pit lane and help a teammate earn a place in the Chase,” Waltrip wrote. “We regret the decision and its impact. We apologize to NASCAR, our fellow competitors, partners and fans who were disappointed in our actions. We will learn from this and move on. As General Manager, Ty Norris has been an integral part of Michael Waltrip Racing since its founding and has my and (co-owner) Rob Kauffman’s full support.”

Michael Waltrip Racing has accepted NASCAR’s penalties and will not appeal the ruling.

UPDATE 10:56pm: Michael Waltrip Racing’s Ty Norris took to Twitter earlier tonight to apologize for his role in the collusion.

“In the final laps, I made a call to pit the [No.] 55 to benefit a teammate,” Norris tweeted. “It was a split second decision made in the middle of a chaotic finish [that was] bad on [our] circumstances. There was no time to think, just act. Though it was to benefit MWR, it is now clear [that] it was to the detriment of the sport I love and have called home for the past 24 years. I apologize to all who were affected by that decision in the greatest race for the Chase in its ten year history. I have dedicated my life to this industry and value its integrity and understand the decision.”

Note: Norris’ statement, which was posted as a series of five tweets on Twitter, has been edited for clarity purposes only.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
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09/10/2013 07:28 AM

Honestly, how does this differ from teams, when running 1st and 2nd during a race, having the 1st place guy give up a lap to the 2nd place guy so they can gain an extra point for leading a lap???

Maybe I don’t remember times in the past when NASCAR cracked down on teams helping each other out… but if NASCAR has enforced this in the past, I sure would like to hear about it.

BTW, still waiting to be able to buy my copy of a NASCAR rules book. I guess when they are written on an Etch-a-Sketch, they are pretty hard to sell. Never mind the fact that it seem that all penalties seem to fall under Section 12-4-something.

09/10/2013 07:52 AM

Agree Fred another page out of the Gray rule book along with the Edwards restart.

What about start and parkers, they manipulate the race every week when they pull off and give everyone a free point?

Then there is the infamous “let boys be boys” as they can go do damage to each others cars in retaliation. Sure they may get a small rough driving penalty but never fined 50pts for effecting the outcome of a race.

Nascar has opened yet another can of worms that will drive more people away from the sport. They either need to let teammates be teammates or fine all who change the outcome through some event not considered “true clean racing”.

09/10/2013 08:36 AM

I forgot to mention how Jeff Gordon got screwed over big time by this whole points manipulating deal. Like I said, not that I agree that there was anything wrong with it… but NASCAR definitely did.

Because of what happened, Jeff Gordon missed out on the Chase by 1 point because Logano was able to gain 2 points on him due to this whole fiasco.

I honestly don’t like Gordon, and would be happy if he honestly didn’t make the Chase. But, because of what happened, and which NASCAR has fined those involved, MWR, it does lead to some serious repercussions for Gordon. Yeah, I know the guy doesn’t need to make any more money, he has plenty. But have you ever payed attention to how much the top 10 finishers of the season get in sponsorship? Hell, even though the Chase includes 12 people, only the top 10 get to take the stage during the awards show.

Since NASCAR has “proven” that team points manipulation took place… and Gordon missed the Chase by 1 point, it seems to me that they should include him in the Chase. An easy fix is to just allow 13 cars into the Chase this year. Gordon doesn’t appear to be a contender for the Championship, but a top 10 finisher… definitely.

And Rick, I’ve never been a fan of the Chase because for 10 races, you have 31 other cars interfering with the outcome. IMO, the Chase cars points should only matter in what position those 12 cars came in instead of including the X number of cars, not in the Chase, that caused them to lose points.

It’s like having a Superbowl between the 49ers and the Giants, yet still allowing all other teams to run out on the field and tackle guys. Seriously, what other sport allows that?

And to be honest, these “WWE” rules of NASCAR are why I stopped being a die hard fan about 4-5 years ago. Before that, I went years without missing a single lap of racing (other than commercials), which, until the DVR was released, made it a pain to wait until the race was over in order to start watching the race. Combined with how bad Fontana has made the “Fan Experience”, I didn’t miss a race there, I live 30 miles from the track, until 6 years ago. Now I refuse to give Fontana a dime of my money… both because of how bad Fontana treats their people, and how “WWENASCAR has become.

I, literally, keep more up to date about NASCAR via this website than I do by watching it.