NASCAR made the unprecedented move of adding a 13th driver to this year’s Chase for the Cup on Friday. Jeff Gordon will be in the mix when the Chase begins Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. The four-time Cup winner was one of those affected by a controversy at last weekend’s race in Richmond.
Gordon’s addition comes after a week in which NASCAR levied a record $300,000 fine against Michael Waltrip Racing and placed two other teams on probation.
Ryan Newman needed to win the race at the Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night in order to make it to the playoff. Newman was leading the Richmond race with seven laps to go when Michael Waltrip Racing driver Clint Bowyer spun out.
ESPN’s Brant James joined Bill Littlefield to explain the spinout that’s making NASCAR dizzy.
“Bowyer apparently orchestrated a spin by himself without really having any problems after a code was sent to him by his crew chief asking him if his arm hurt and he should itch it. After that he spun his car,” James explained. ”There was a caution. When the caution happened, Ryan Newman lost his lead in the pits.”
After the radio scanner recording became public, suspicion began to rise. Bowyer denies that the spin out was on purpose. Since the event, NASCAR fined Bowyer and Truex Jr.’s team, Michael Waltrip Racing, a record $300,000.
“Its not anything that’s going to shut down a team,” James said. ”These teams would consume that easily with bills for buying tires. The big deal is that $3 million that it translates into later because in the penalties Truex’s Jr. was kicked out. And also the public relations — the perception issues of this are terrible.”
Newman was added to the Chase’s 12-car field when Truex Jr. was dropped.
James does not believe that NASCAR’s penalties will dissuade racing teams from “manipulating things” in the future.
“It will encourage them to get much slicker about it,” he said. “Don’t forget that this is a sport created by moonshiners and scoundrels and scallywags and people who thrive on the periphery of what we call law and order.”