Team might have asked for deal to help Joey Logano make Chase

Team asked for deal to help driver make Chase

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Tiny Front Row Motorsports asked for a deal from Penske Racing in the closing laps of last weekend’s race at Richmond and then helped make sure Penske’s Joey Logano made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship by having one of its drivers back off, according to an Associated Press review of radio communications.

David Gilliland’s spotter tells his crew that Logano’s team wanted Gilliland’s spot on the track “and they said they’d probably be able to help us in the future,” according to the review of Front Row’s radio communications.

“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.

A short time later, Logano passed Gilliland on a restart and finished 22nd – one spot ahead of Gilliland and good enough for a berth in the Chase field.

“Good job, good job, man,” the spotter says. “Hopefully we’ll get something out of that.”

Trading favors on and off the track is common in NASCAR, but the series is already trying to rebound from the embarrassment of another team manipulating the outcome at Richmond.

Earlier this week, NASCAR punished Michael Waltrip Racing and three of its drivers for shenanigans over the final seven laps and took the unprecedented step of pulling one of them, Martin Truex Jr., out of the Chase field.

Truex, who took the news hard,
according to good friend Ryan Newman, broke his silence Wednesday in a series of posts on Twitter.

“I drove the hardest race of my life that Night & was unaware of any other circumstances other than needing to finish as high as I could to have a chance,” Truex tweeted. “This has been a very difficult situation for everyone involved. I hope we can all move on. I’m looking forward to Chicago.”

The Chase begins Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.

It does so marred by the MWR controversy, and now the suggestion that Front Row hit up deep-pocketed Penske for compensation to get Logano into the 12-driver field while someone else was tanking the race.

A review of Logano’s team radio reveals no communications indicating any discussions with Front Row. Logano is told only right before the final restart that he’s racing three cars for position, one of which is Gilliland.

Penske and Front Row are both Ford teams and considered partners, and statistics analyzed by AP also show that after Logano passed him, Gilliland’s lap times dropped off by almost 1 second from the times he was running prior to the radio exchange.

NASCAR said it was aware of the communications “and is looking into it, but has yet to see anything in full context that requires any action.”

Front Row spokesman Jeff Dennison said the team did not heed a Penske request to give Logano track position before the final restart. An e-mail to a Penske spokesman was not immediately answered.

All of this happened just before the MWR controversy.

Newman was on his way to a victory that would have given him the final spot in the Chase field when Clint Bowyer spun, bringing out a caution.

That set in motion a chain of events that cost Newman the win and the Chase berth. It also cost Jeff Gordon a Chase berth and put Truex and Logano into the final two spots.

Gordon, initially disappointed because he said he felt he could have done more in the closing laps to earn a better finish, said his anger has grown over the last few days as he learned of the MWR manipulation.

“You realize that people all want to do things for their teammates to help them, but you also know there’s certain lines that have to be drawn with that,” he said at a Wednesday night appearance in North Carolina, adding he’d learned of the Gilliland and Logano situation en route to the event but didn’t have all the facts.

“There’s certain morals that are still involved with what you’re comfortable doing and not comfortable doing, and it has an effect on far more people than we could ever understand. That’s what I’ve really learned from this situation, is that it’s way beyond me and you, it’s way beyond the sport, it’s way beyond the fans. It reaches out much further than that. And I think that’s what’s so important for NASCAR to work on maintaining. And also, us, as competitors, have a responsibility as well.”

NASCAR took action this week against MWR, placing Newman in the Chase field and bumping Truex. It also fined MWR $300,000 and suspended general manager Ty Norris indefinitely. Bowyer, Truex and Brian Vickers, all MWR teammates, were docked 50 points each, and their crew chiefs were placed on probation through the end of the year.

Bowyer has denied the spin was deliberate. NASCAR could only prove one action <0x2014> radio communication between Norris and Vickers in which a confused Vickers was told to pit as the field went green with three laps to go. The call was an effort to give Logano position on the track to pass Gordon in the standings and knock Gordon out of the Chase so that Truex could gain a wild-card berth.

But Bowyer wasn’t really penalized <0x2014> NASCAR said it couldn’t prove his spin was intentional <0x2014> and his 50 points were deducted before the seeding for the Chase. And Gordon felt that Bowyer also deserved to be punished for giving up late track position just as Vickers did.

“I thought (NASCAR) got it half-right,” he said. “I think as competitors and some of the media understand that it looks pretty obvious what caused that caution, and it’s pretty obvious that (Bowyer) came back down pit road, similar to what (Vickers) did. But yet that penalty really didn’t affect (Bowyer). It did affect MWR. That was a huge penalty to MWR, and it’s going to have consequences that go just beyond that penalty. In my opinion, it’s going to affect them in the future.

“In that sense, I feel like the penalty was justified. But it really doesn’t address what went on with (Bowyer).”

Now NASCAR must also think about how it will monitor teams working together on the track.

It’s a tried-and-true practice in NASCAR, where teammates have long swapped position to allow a teammate <0x2014> or even a driver from the same manufacturer <0x2014> to lead a lap and earn a needed bonus point. Other lower-profile moves occur throughout the season.

On its face, what Vickers did Saturday didn’t raise too many eyebrows. But NASCAR President Mike Helton said “the preponderance of things that happened by Michael Waltrip Racing Saturday night, the most clear was the direction that (Vickers) was given and the confusion around it,” meaning Vickers’ laying down for Logano was the smoking gun.

That could mean that Gilliland doing the same for Logano is a punishable offense and that NASCAR opened up a Pandora’s box in singling out Vickers’ trip down pit road as the punishable offense in the MWR actions at Richmond.

Kyle Busch, who goes into the Chase tied for second, believes teammates help one another on the track. A year ago at Richmond, Denny Hamlin pitted late to help Busch gain a position on the track. It wasn’t enough as Busch still lost out on the Chase to Gordon.

“I say you do whatever you’ve got to do to get your team in,” Busch said Wednesday at Dover. “If you’re in that position and you have multi-team cars, that’s what they’re there for. Some people say I’m full of crap and you’re not supposed to manipulate the end of the race. Just let it play out as it plays out. Let the best man win. But, I was in the same position last year. There were ways it could have been manipulated and I could have gotten myself in the Chase. But I didn’t do it. And I missed the Chase.”

CHAMP DENIES ANY WRONGDOING

Five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson denied any wrongdoing the Chase field-deciding race at Richmond International Raceway over the weekend that has been marred by controversy.

Bowyer said his spinout at Richmond was no different than when a Johnson mishap brought out a caution earlier in the race.

“I think he was just having a bad day. And as things kept piling on, he just tried to suck someone else into the mix with him,” Johnson said Wednesday.

Bowyer’s spin ended Ryan Newman’s bid to win the race and make the Chase and instead helped Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. land a berth. NASCAR, however, determined that MWR had manipulated the race and replaced Truex with Newman in addition to punishing MWR.

– Associated Press

The implication by Bowyer was that Johnson spun intentionally with 55 laps remaining to assist the Chase chances of Jeff Gordon, Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports.

Johnson blamed a flat tire for his caution and pointed out correctly that Gordon already was on pit road when it occurred.

“If anyone has any questions, just go back and look at the race and you’ll see that our tire blowing was bad for the 24 (of driver Jeff Gordon), bad for the 5 (of driver Kasey Kahne, another Hendrick teammate) <0x2014> bad for a lot of guys who were coming to pit road,” Johnson said. “The only silver lining for the 24 was that he was preserved on pit road, and was able to get the Lucky Dog (to get back on the lead lap). But even then, you have to start at the tail end (of the lead-lap cars). . There was no benefit.”

At Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Kyle Busch was asked what he thought of the scandal.

“I say you do whatever you’ve got to do to get your team in,” Busch said of the Chase. “If you’re in that position, and you have multi-team cars, that’s what they’re there for. Some people say I’m full of crap and you’re not supposed to manipulate the end of the race. Just let it play out as it plays out. Let the best man win.

“But, I was in the same position last year. There were ways it could have been manipulated and I could have gotten myself in the Chase. But I didn’t do it. And I missed the Chase.”

Johnson said NASCAR needs to use more officials and more technology resources, such as television replays and even in-car audio, to make better calls during the races.

“In the overall issue of officiating, I think we need to expect things and when we get to the Chase time of the year <0x2014> and really we should have it all year <0x2014> but NASCAR should have people staffed up instead of downsizing,” Johnson said. “Not only from the aspect of what we’re talking about right here, but also on restarts and a lot of other procedures that take place.

“It is tough for the (officials in the scoring) tower to take care of it all. They need other people, qualified people, other resources and technology to make these decisions.”

Johnson said if there was any question that the race needed to be stopped.

“If there is any question they need to stop the race immediately,” Johnson said. “Red flag. Pits are closed. Figure it out and make the best judgment that they can <0x2014> because trying to go back on a Monday or a Tuesday to fix the situation, that is just too much. I’ve learned something about the ripple effect.”

Johnson also said he was bewildered with NASCAR’s non-call on the final restart, when television replays showed eventual race winner Carl Edwards, running second at the time, clearly beat leader Paul Menard to the start-finish line in a move that Johnson said was almost identical to one he was penalized for earlier in the season, costing him a chance of a win at Dover.

“We’ve been working hard to eliminate gray areas and we need to continue down that road,” Johnson added. “I’m shocked there wasn’t a call on it, plain and simple.”

– Associated Press

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YeCats
11553
Points
YeCats 09/12/13 - 08:03 am
1
0
NASCAR overstepped

All this has been going on in racing. It's just another way to make drivers "play nice" during a long season. NASCAR should had left everything the way it was, and took care of business in the off season.

griff6035
4211
Points
griff6035 09/12/13 - 09:11 am
0
0
Revenge Racing

Watch out for paybacks from the drivers that did not make the chase. I do not think the chase makes any sense any way. If you were not in the top (twelve) in points before the chase begins the odds of you winning the Championship would be very high, JMO. The only thing the chase does is to eliminate (31) teams early. These teams can still do every thing the chase teams do except win the Championship. If you want excitement, here is my suggestion. With (11) races left to run begin disqualifying the bottom three teams with the fewest total points. Do this for Ten (10) Races and and what you have left is the cream of the crop racing for the Championship (13) teams. This should give the Teams on the Bubble more Incentive to really Race instead of riding around the track. OK NASCAR ball is in your court. PS It works for Golf (FedEx cup)

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