The Frontstretch: NASCAR Mailbox: The C Word, BLab's Ribs, And TK To JGR? by Summer Bedgood -- Thursday September 12, 2013

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NASCAR Mailbox: The C Word, BLab's Ribs, And TK To JGR?

Summer Bedgood · Thursday September 12, 2013


“Cheating” isn’t a word you often hear associated with what happens on the racetrack.

Normally, cheating is more in line with the word “innovating”, where teams try and bend the gray areas of the NASCAR rulebook to find an advantage on the racetrack. It is something that is generally frowned upon, of course, and fans don’t normally look at people who try and break those rules as heroes. But car chiefs and crew chiefs do it anyway.

However, over the last few days, we’ve heard the word “cheating” a lot and, in this case, it has everything to do with what happened on the racetrack. It has everything to do with manipulation and it has everything to do with a gray area.

Michael Waltrip Racing and now it appears Penske Racing may have pushed the limits of cheating at Richmond, at least in NASCAR’s eyes. Both appeared to have attempted to manipulate the race, something that likely happens fairly often but is much more likely in a high pressure situation like the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

I have to wonder if too much is being made of this. I mean is it really that big of a deal that Gilliland let Logano by for a spot? Is it really a big deal that Brian Vickers made a pitstop for his teammate? Doesn’t everything that happens on the track affect someone?

I understand the bigger issues at stake here, but I find it strange that this is just now coming to light. This has been around as long as multi-car teams have and teammates help teams when they can’t help themselves. How long will this continue to be an issue and will all of this outrage stop it?

I hope not. I don’t mind teammates working together to a certain extent. It is the full scale manipulation that bothers me.

Now onto your questions:

“Will MWR lose sponsorship after all of this? I can’t imagine NAPA or Aaron’s are very happy about it.” Freddy

Well we haven’t heard from Aaron’s yet, but they weren’t involved in as much of the controversy as NAPA and 5 Hour Energy were. And those were the two who responded.

Here is what NAPA said on their Facebook page:

The actions taken by Michael Waltrip’s Racing team this past weekend leading to the penalties assessed by NASCAR, are very concerning. We are disappointed that a partner associated with our organization would make such a significant error in judgment. In addition, we have launched our own review to determine the future of our partnership with Michael Waltrip’s Racing team. The NAPA AUTO PARTS organization is proud of its long-standing NASCAR relationship. We share a passion with our customers for high quality racing and seek to determine the best course of action for our customers, NASCAR fans, and the NAPA organization.

And here is a tweet from 5 Hour Energy:

We respect NASCAR’s penalties against MWR & are addressing our sponsorship relations internally. We appreciate your understanding & patience.

MWR has enjoyed a long relationship with Michael Waltrip, going on 13 years now, with much of their marketing and media programs built around him and his race team. Will the events of Saturday night cause them to reconsider?

I don’t see any “we fully support our team” or “we stand by Michael Waltrip Racing” anywhere in those statements. And though sponsors normally don’t publicly condone controversial actions taken by their drivers and teams—similar to the reaction from Scott’s when Carl Edwards flipped Brad Keselowski at Atlanta a few years ago—you never hear them say that they are reviewing their partnership with the team.

I don’t know for sure that NAPA or 5 Hour Energy will pull out. There are few people in the business better at keeping sponsors happy than Michael Waltrip and his organization. Even when they were struggling mightily when the team first started, both NAPA and Aaron’s have stuck with them. There aren’t a lot of sponsors who would have done that.

Still, they can’t be happy with the reaction they have gotten from people who associate their brand with that race team. I don’t know very many people who were all that thrilled with what they saw on Saturday night, and the sponsors have heard from these people on their social media pages.I could see this going both ways. The team could redeem themselves or the sponsors could say, “Screw it, we’re done with you.” We’ll just have to wait and see.

“I saw on Twitter that Tony Kanaan is going to come to NASCAR next year! That would be awesome! Who is he driving for??” Ed

Well, now, hold your horses. Nothing was announced publicly. In fact, Kanaan and the team he met with—Joe Gibbs Racing—says there was nothing formal about the discussion. Kanaan was touring the race shop and it was just a simple meeting. Now, if you think back to when Danica Patrick made her move to NASCAR, the same thing happened. She toured race shops but both parties denied that it meant anything significant. I’m sure you can figure out the rest.

So I think it is safe to say that Kanaan is interested.

The initial reports put Tony Kanaan in a Nationwide Series car with the team for next season, though those reports appear to have jumped the gun. Kanaan is currently searching for some sponsorship in the IZOD IndyCar Series, though, which made the rumors more believable.

“What do you mean his back is no longer hurting? Nationwide? But my friend Dario said it was too easy…”

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kanaan in some sort of NASCAR ride in the next couple of years, but don’t expect him to be a full-time NASCAR driver in 2014.

“When will Bobby Labonte be back in the car again? That must have been one heck of a spill….” Jennifer

Um, yeah it was, because he’s not going to come back until at least New Hampshire. That would be 3 and a half weeks out of the racecar because of those three broken ribs, though ribs generally take at least an entire month or two to heal completely. It makes me wonder if he’s planning the entire race or just running the first lap or until the first caution.

As he is still sidelined and recovering from broken ribs, Bobby Labonte might just be watching the sun set on a championship career.

Here is what Labonte had to say about that: ““My ribs still hurt and that’s something that takes time. I figure with the way things are, another week is not that big of a deal. It gives me another week to heal up. Obviously, the plan now is to get back in the car at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which is a good track and I look forward to going back there. With my goal being Loudon (N.H.), it gives me another 10 days to prepare for that. It’s better to wait another 10 days.”

A.J. Allmendinger will continue to drive for this team, of course, and at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if he went ahead and finished out the year with them. After the announcements concerning next year for this team, that seems to be the simplest solution.

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09/12/2013 05:03 PM

I say it again, by virture of what Nascar did regarding MWR, The Law of Unintended Consequences would certainly make a showing. I am amazed at the pitchforks aimed Penske now, this happens ALL THE TIME. Now people are screaming “cheaters”. I dare say these are uninformed race fans that don’t know what goes on and I am sure they think the Lucky Dog, wave arounds, GWS, mystery debris cautions that always seem to benefit Nascars favorite team are in no way “cheating” acts or manipulation in any way. Foolish sheep. This pious outrage over this is absurd. If a sponsor leaves anybody I for one will NOT buy there products. Nascar has finally painted themselves in a corner and they have only themselves to blame, not any race team. What if pitchfork crowd, your team could be next for something very silly and minor, would you be so willing to brand your team “cheaters”? You cannot change the rules in mid game.

09/12/2013 08:51 PM

kb, you make very valid points. It’s like the last restart that is bringing out all the Edwards haters. Go back and look at the whole restart. Menard was in front when he and Edwards were half-way to the starting line from that dreaded restart box. That is when Menard got a little sideways and actually hit Edwards in the side. I guess Edwards should have hit the brakes and caused a pile-up. But, if he had of done that, everyone would be calling him a jerk for causing a crash on the restart. Also, if it had of been any other driver involved, and I will specify Junior and even Jeffy here, there would be no complaining. And I stand by that statement. It’s the same as Gordon being mad about the deal making between Logano and Gilliland. How Jeffy forgets how Hendrick entered an extra car at Atlanta in 1995, and had it start and park to guarantee Jeffy his first championship. How is that not fixing the situation. Richard Childress did it two years before that, entering Neil Bonnet in the race and having him do the same thing, thus giving Senior his sixth championship. Jeffy has a very short memory!