The Frontstretch: Did You Notice? ... Confusion, Control, And What If Scenarios by Thomas Bowles -- Wednesday September 11, 2013

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Did You Notice? ... Confusion, Control, And What If Scenarios

Thomas Bowles · Wednesday September 11, 2013


Did You Notice? … The way in which Clint Bowyer has steered through the aftermath of “Spingate?” As one of the sport’s more personable drivers, the way he’s handled it brings another “P” word to one’s mind: perplexing. Monday’s NASCAR penalties, aimed towards Michael Waltrip Racing in essence let Bowyer off the hook. Sure, the driver was hit with a 50-point deduction, part of an equal first-degree punishment across all three teams but as the one who caused Richmond’s race-altering caution, via spinout one could argue he was guiltiest of all. Yet Bowyer escaped with a misdemeanor compared to the felony sentences assessed to everyone around him. Those 50 points, a devastating number if used correctly were applied to the regular season, pre-Chase, failing to have an effect on his new 2,000 point total. That leaves him with the millions in bonus money, the national exposure, and – let’s face it – very much in the hunt for the title trophy. Entering Chicagoland, this Sunday he sits 15 points behind Matt Kenseth and could conceivably walk out of the race with the points lead.

That’s something teammate Martin Truex, Jr. is unable to say, at least this year after this same 50-point penalty knocked him right out of the Chase. It’s unfortunate, for sure considering how the driver knew nothing of what was happening around him. But it seemed he became a Mayan sacrifice, the lamb offered up to NASCAR so MWR could fight the real battle it wanted: keeping Bowyer, their number one championship hopeful from losing that prime opportunity. Sprint Cup officials knew, despite the high level of circumstantial evidence on the No. 15 car they were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Criminal court is about “beyond a reasonable doubt;” at no time did Bowyer say clearly, “I am going to spin myself out” either on the radio or in public. Additional penalties would cause an appeal, perhaps a lawsuit based on that “shaky” evidence and that’s not a war the sport wants dragged out at this stage. Could you imagine if week five of the Chase came around and the top story is a final appeals hearing with NASCAR’s outside judge, John Middlebrook?

That’s why this course of action is the equivalent of saying to Bowyer, “Not guilty.” But if there’s nothing for the man to be concerned about – repeated denials he spun intentionally lasted long into yesterday’s live SportsCenter appearances – then why call Ryan Newman ten minutes after the crackdown, apologizing? If the spin wasn’t intentional, if it didn’t alter the outcome in some way one would think there would be absolutely nothing to apologize for. The fact Bowyer tried to back off said apology, uncomfortably over the airwaves after some public relations guy finally realized the ramifications speaks volumes. It’s almost like the veteran knows what he did was wrong, feels bad about it, and wants to come clean. But the price that team, along with sponsorship loss will pay with a “guilty” admission means the truth must remain unspoken for decades.

Did You Notice?… Quick hits before we take off…

- In the midst of one of the sport’s most controversial moments, a fair journalistic question to ask: Where is Brian France? You’ve just handed down one of the harshest penalties your sport has ever seen, removing a competitor from your playoff system (virtually unprecedented) and are fighting allegations races could be rigged. So your response to that is to lay low, throw President Mike Helton to the wolves for now and hope for the best?

Let me put it this way: if Frontstretch were being charged with fraud, as much as I love them Amy Henderson and Beth Lunkenheimer, my two top assistants wouldn’t be out in front of the microphone. Tough problems require tougher answers, keeping the faith in a sport so many have dedicated their lives to. Where’s France now, a calm guiding force his dad summoned so many times to steer things in the right direction?

- Question #2: If Ryan Newman doesn’t have a bad pit stop, coming out first and winning the race Saturday night are we even wondering if Clint Bowyer cheated? I’d have to think the answer is no. Worst-case, we’d think it was fishy but the public pressure just wouldn’t be there for NASCAR to investigate the issue.

- How close are some of these spots to make the Chase? Think back to Pocono, this August where teammates Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon battled it out. Kahne beat Gordon into 1, held on through some perilous side-by-side action and shut his teammate out of Victory Lane. That, up to this point has made the difference as to which driver is in or out.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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09/11/2013 06:24 AM

I think that Bowyer should have been removed from the Chase and Gordon should be in.

09/11/2013 06:43 AM

Yet another reason the whole ‘chase’ gimmick is ridiculous.

09/11/2013 07:51 AM

Sa far as this “Spingate” goes, it appears that Ty Norris is the Jack Billmyer and Jim Cardiges of Toyota Racing. (These two guys were principals in the big Honda scandal a few years ago, and were both heavily involved with Rick Hendrick.) Steve Lynch, the author of the book “Arrogance And Accords”, the book about that scandal, should visit the NASCAR garage and write a sequel to that book, and call it: “Stupidity And Camrys – The Michael Waltrip Racing Story”!

As for poor Jeffy missing the Chase through all this, think about this. Last year, with all the garbage that was going on between him and Bowyer that ended with Gordon taking Bowyer out at Phoenix, anyone remember the third driver who was an innocent victim in that crash? Isn’t it real karma with it being that same driver who got into the Chase by one or two points, and not Gordon?

Also, I wonder if David Reutimann and Mark Martin have stopped laughing and gotten up off the floor yet?

Old Fan Bill
09/11/2013 09:10 AM

Good one about David and Mark.

First Clint said that he thought Jr. got in to him and caused the spin. This morning paper said that the itch comment came from the fact that he had poison oak on his arms from cutting down a tree last week. Is this another spin.

09/11/2013 10:31 AM

I’m sure that the folks who still hate Jeff are happy he’s not in. That’s fine.

Leaving Bowyer in to potentially WIN this chase could have bigger ramifications than NASCAR expects IMO. If he does, expect a lot of fans to be even angrier than they already are.

I honestly don’t care about the next 10 races. I don’t plan to watch. This gimmick needs to end, it has spoiled the fun of watching a race – tired of it all being about points every single race.

I do agree though with the “where’s Brian” question. funny isn’t it how he’s never around – it’s like they only trot him out twice a year for special events. Useless git.

09/11/2013 11:34 AM

First of all folks, I’m not a big Jeff Gordon fan but don’t dislike the guy. But, there is no way you can leave him out of the chase because without Bowyer’s Spin, Jeff is in and Logano is out. What if Bowyer or Logano win the Chase? Whoo, talk about a mess! Hey, I got an idea, if Bowyer is truly innocent, give him a polygraph test by a polygraph expert and if he passes I will buy the results. You want to bet Bowyer won’t take one? We know why. Come on Clint, take the test. Clear you name. You cost a good friend a win and without Nascar stepping in Neuman wouldn’t even be in the chase. If I had a friend and he cost me a race he wouldn’t be a friend for long. There is too much evidence that Bowyer spun on purpose to ignore. And, like has been mentioned, the Bowyer penalty is meaningless and really needs to be looked at. Nascar had better step up because if one of two people who shouldn’t be in the chase happen to win it then you will really have a mess on your hands. And, what about Gordon? We all know that Gordon could win it all because after all he is a four time champ. This ruling could very well cost him a championship. Again, Nascar better right this wrong and they could really be red faced when it’s all over. And, we are not even talking about all the money that Gordon could lose because of not being in the chase. Either way, Nascar has not fixed this issue yet until Gordon is put back in and Bowyer has been give some meaningful punishment. And, if you read a lot of article there are some very well known writers who agree that Nascar hasn’t fixed this and that Gordon needs to be put in.

09/11/2013 11:57 AM

Larry, go read my comment above about Logano getting in instead of Gordon. I am finding all this garbage very ironic how people are saying that MWR was also trying to help Joey. What bunk! If Joey still drove for Coach Phoney, I might suspect that. But Joey drives a Ford, and there is no way in you-know-where that a Toyota driver is going to do anything to help a Ford driver, especially a Ford driver who used to drive a Toyota.

Oh, and I forgot about Rodney Childers. I’ll bet he’s laughing too! And Mark more so. Look who Mark is driving for right now!

09/11/2013 12:38 PM

Agreed, Bowyer got off too light. However, I was encouraged to hear pretty strong statements from NAPA and 5 Hour Energy today. In the end, sponsors not tolerating this will go farther than any NASCAR penalty could.

09/11/2013 12:43 PM

If you need a “calm, guiding force” to be out front in this situation, I’d much prefer Mike Helton over Brian France any day. Just sayin’.

Also, regarding the Bowyer (non)penalty – I believe a deal was made. In exchange for MWR not appealing the penalties, they would be allowed to keep one car in the chase, probably to appease the sponsors. I also now believe part of that deal was that NASCAR would be “blind” to the obvious intent of that spin, giving MWR the ability to downplay the extent of their acts to just the action with the 55, based on what we saw in interviews yesterday.

Just my $.02.

09/11/2013 12:44 PM

Actions detrimental to nascar?
Penalized for manipulating the out come of a race? At least the race was “manipulated” by a race team and not the sanctioning body. I’m no fan of MWR but this is truly ludicrous.
It’s is truly the end.
I’m out of words and patience. Other than that glass house saying…NASCAR however is absolutely clean out of any inkling of credibility. None. Nada, Zilch. Zippo. Just how stupid do you think we are? According to this last disaster… Just below lemming.

09/11/2013 01:05 PM

I believe it was Gordon last year that cost Bowyer a CHASE berth. hmmm? What goes ‘round, comes ‘round. I feel so bad for Gordon. NOT!!!

09/11/2013 01:08 PM

What really would be funny is if NAPA or 5hour drops MWR and goes to Gordon….I would hate it for Martin, but not MWR or Clint. I think Michael and Clint took a quote from Earnest T. Bass from Andy Griffin show. “Ask me know questions and I will tell you No lies”

09/11/2013 01:09 PM

As I said yesterday, SPONSORS. I bet Tony is liking his chops with the
NAPA deal up in the air.
Sponsors will have the
ability to inflict the harshest of penalties.

09/11/2013 01:18 PM

SHOEMAN- did not Clint take Gordon out several times during the year, Mr. Hendrick even said Clint hurt the entire Hendrick team by wrecking Gordon at Martinville where so many Hendricks people died, while a win would not have brought anyone back, I think it would have helped the healing process…If I were Gordon, Clint would not win a race or the Championship.

09/11/2013 01:28 PM

Shawn, I agree. Bowyer cost Jeff and/or Jimmie the win at Martinsville and then raced “rough” all year. At Phoenix, Bowyer knocked Jeff out of the way again and he didn’t need to or even really need the position – he just decided he could push the 24 around. Yeah what Jeff did as payback was pretty ugly – no disputing that, but IMO Bowyer got what he deserved – he got wrecked after wrecking the same car multiple times. Sort of the same way Hamlin & Logano had issues this year.

I sincerely hope that Bowyer doesn’t win the 10 race trophy this year or any other and it will be interesting about how the sponsors do react. Nobody likes to be embarrassed like that. I know that I’m not buying any parts from NAPA. Who is 5 hr energy owned by? I don’t use the stuff, so I guess I’ll have to look it up.

09/11/2013 01:31 PM

I agree the points over the season or lack of them made Jeff Gordon’s bed as to get in the Chase. I am not happy he isn’t in it, I think its the right thing to do. His season has been subpar and he has no wins. Ingrid and Rick are tweeting about their outrage. Heck, Nascar has lost what little shred of dignity they had so I am sure Jeff will show up with his party dress on, and be allowed in the Chase. Logano 100% deserves to be where he is. Gordon got his Golden Ticket last year with his rain shortened win at Pocono. A half of a race where you showed up does not make a Chase caliber driver. NOBODY knows what could have happened the last laps of the race, Newman might not have won and lord knows what could have happened to Jeff. Rewarding on a unknown is giving someone a freebie, and at the expense of those who proved their stats, how is that fair? Nascar has really opened up an ugly can of worms. People always want more, Newman is in, the mob says why not Jeff and so on and so on and so on.

09/11/2013 01:49 PM

Fear not Biffle detractors, he will not win the championship this year. Nascar will make sure of that. Bad luck will hit Clint in the form of cautions for debris at the wrong time.

Wait! Isn’t that manipulation? Hmm.

Add in the possibility that Gordon gets some retribution and it will be some kind of uphill battle for Clint to win the title this year.

09/11/2013 02:31 PM

BABYD is spot on. Agree with everything you said.

09/11/2013 02:40 PM

Steve, did you really mean “Bowyer”, and not “Biffle”? Personally, I hope Biffle does win it. He would be the only one with a Championship in all three top series’.

As for NAPA and 5-Hour Energy, their statements are speaking volumes. If both did decide to dump MWR, the one I do feel sorry for is Truex. But, while Tony might be rubbing his hands together, if NAPA did decide to seek more ethical pastures, why not go with an underdog team like the #34? I know restrictor plate races are a crapshoot, but David Ragan has won two of them. What would that team, or the #38 team, be able to do if they had the kind of funding that NAPA brought to MWR. They probably wouldn’t pull off wins, but they would at least make their presence known. Just saying!

09/11/2013 03:09 PM

Whoops. Yes I meant Bowyer. It starts with a B at least. Does that count? ;-)

Robert Eastman
09/11/2013 06:07 PM

A general misconception is that MWR was trying to help Joey be in the Chase by knocking Jeff out. I’m quite sure that is incorrect. If Jeff “point raced” his way into the Chase then Joey would be the “1 win Wild-Card recipient” which would keep Truex and Newman out. Of course Joey would lose the benefit of the bonus points for his win… but he would still be in the Championship hunt.
MWR only wanted Joey to “point race” his way in so the Wild-Card position would open to Truex.

I agree with Ken’s implication concerning “Hendrick’s complaining” about Jeff being manipulated out of the Chase by MWR. Talk about being a “hypocrite!”
I’m actually a Rick Hendrick/Jeff Gordon fan because they are willing to “pay the price” in the pursuit of their dreams, but… anyone who commits felonies (bribes to Honda officials) to get inventory at the detriment of fellow Honda dealers and then buys a Presidential Pardon from Clinton for half a Million Dollars, should be the last person to complain about someone else “gaming the system!” I actually understand why Rick did it. The cost of new car dealership overheads are so prohibitively high that you have to have lots of cars to sell to stay in business. The real culprits were Honda and their officials… but once you’ve proven your own “lack of ethics,” it would be wise to refrain from criticizing others who are also willing “to win at all costs!”

09/11/2013 06:48 PM

Ken (11:57AM) – Fact checker here…..MWR racing needed Logano to be in the top 10 otherwise the Truex wildcard spot would go to Logano. Nothing to do with caring if Logano made the chase, but he was a domino that needed to fall to make the whole scheme work. This wasn’t just planned on the fly…

09/11/2013 06:50 PM

Steve, speaking of manipulation, they never showed the debris that caused the Lap 270 caution that got Gordon back on the lead lap and put him back in the Chase hunt on Saturday. I’m a 24 fan, I was hoping for a caution, and I had a feeling NASCAR would pounce at the slightest excuse to make the showdown for the Chase spots more interesting. And pounce they did. I think Jeff’s been screwed over by the whole MWR/Penske deal and the subsequent penalties, but he wouldn’t have been in that position if not for a caution that was very likely bogus, so I’m not as upset about the whole affair as I’d otherwise be.

another Andy D
09/11/2013 07:12 PM

I’m pretty surprised that NASCAR actually did something. Then add the sponsor factor on top of that. It’s better than Housewives of ‘pick your city’.
Just some random stuff.
MWR made over 300k at the Richmond race between the 15, 55 and 56.
The 48 has been dropping out every week in an effort to help the 5 and 24 get in The Chase.
Although I am not a fan, Kurt Busch and the 78 team should have been the lead ‘Chase’ story.

09/11/2013 07:41 PM

OK, first we have the infamous Spingate, and now it appears a lesser Ford team helped Logano to get one extra point to knock the biggest crybaby in NASCAR out of the Chase.

To Brian France: Your circus is in serious trouble. You have allowed NASCAR to become the biggest laughingstock of the sportsworld. I urge you to reconsider the Chase just for this year, just until you can develop concrete rules for everyone to race by honestly. This includes “Felon Racing” (aka Hendrick Motorsports) and “Dumb-As-a-Doornail Racing” (aka Michael Waltrip Racing). For this year only, drop the Chase crap and reset the points back to what they were at the conclusion of the Richmond race, with penalties included. This will have Carl Edwards one single point ahead of the second biggest whiner in NASCAR, Jimmie Johnson. Then, for the next ten races, run them as per normal. While this will make it a full season championship, it will be the only way for NASCAR to get any credibility back. Unfortunately, with this being a 36-race Championship, instead of a 10-race Championship, that might through off “Chammie”, your largest financial contributor’s top team.

What do you say, Mr. France? Can you sober up long enough to comprehend what I have asked for and agree to it?

Bill B
09/11/2013 08:05 PM

I am willing to take bets that neither NAPA or 5 Hour will leave MWR as a result of this. Likewise Toyota. Basically they are all using PC spin tactics to make it sound like they care. Don’t believe me? Just think back to M&Ms, Gibbs and Toyota when Kyle got in trouble. Lots of babble and posturing, but no action.
Come on folks it’s 2013. You can’t trust “official” statements from corporate America, politicians, or anyone else in the limelight.

With that said, as much as I think they should, NASCAR is not going to put Gordon in now. Their playbook now is to just hope it blows over. Unless he eventually wins a championship or sets some meaningful record, Bowyer will now be remembered for this “Black Sox” moment in NASCAR. That will be his legacy. Unlike Jeff Gordon he doesn’t have the championships, wins and poles to overshadow those controversial moments.
Hope you enjoy the harvest you reaped Clint because that will follow you to your grave.

Chris T
09/11/2013 08:07 PM

I think Clint Boyer has been hanging out with Nelson Piquet Jr. too much.

09/12/2013 10:04 AM

Its been 5 days now and we still have not heard from Nascar’s fearless leader Brian France on the issue. Guess he can’t sober up enough to take control of his own racing organization.

His absence is very telling. This ship just took and iceberg, so maybe he’s spending his time inflating the life raft.

09/12/2013 11:08 AM

@ another Andy D –

The 48 “dropping out” the last 4 weeks had zero effect on whether or not the 24 or 5 made the chase. Unless the 48 dropped COMPLETELY out of the top 10, that is. The 24 was chasing the drivers in 9th and 10th in the points to get in. What happens at the top of the standings had no bearing. Jimmie DNF’ing doesn’t bring them any closer to 10th.

Kevin in SoCal
09/12/2013 02:32 PM

I agree with Sully @1:31pm.

another Andy D
09/12/2013 05:18 PM

allisong, It wasn’t about getting ahead of Johnson, it was about having the opportunity to accumulate more points each week to close in on top 10 or wild card spots. Think of it like a 42 car race without the 48. Remember Pocono? Johnson out, Kahne and Gordon score max points.

09/13/2013 08:37 AM

Anytime one of NASCAR’s “Golden Boys” don’t make The Chase they look to blame something or someone other than the driver and/or team. Of all the controversy that has been mentioned the only thing that was wrong is Clint spinning out on purpose to bring out the caution and that is questionable. The rest is just someone fishing for a reason to get Gordon in to The Chase since he could not race his way in.


Contact Tom Bowles

Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

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