Michael Waltrip Racing is in a lot of trouble. How much trouble? $300,000 of trouble.
The team was fined the largest sum in NASCAR history (the previous high being Carl Long for having an engine that was too big, a penalty of $200,000) and is going to be without Ty Norris who was suspended indefinitely. Norris will be able to work at the shop still, but he won’t be allowed to go to the race track.
However, the reason for the penalties is what’s getting everyone involved in NASCAR to go crazy.
“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. 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,” Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition stated in a press release on Monday evening.
Clint Bowyer appeared to have intentionally spun his car with seven laps to go. At the time, his teammate Martin Truex Jr. was not in position to make it into the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup. Besides that, Bowyer was asked to stay on pit road just so Truex can gain another position. Then, once the green flag came back out, the team gave Brian Vickers orders to pit, insisting that he had a flat tire when he truly did not.
As most people know by now, each of the three teams were fined 50 driver and owner points. Yet, for Bowyer, the penalty is simply meaningless. Since the point deduction is considered before the official seeding of the Chase, his deduction has nothing to do with his seeding in NASCAR’s version of the playoffs. Bowyer remains tied for eighth in points with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman. Newman was on his way to victory at Richmond and Bowyer’s spin prevented him from getting into the Chase. NASCAR’s fine on Truex Jr. moved him back to 17th in points which means that there was no tie between the two drivers, evidently putting Newman in and sending Truex Jr. back out.
Though the penalty could cost MWR several sponsors and millions of dollars in race winnings over the next 10 races, it shows the team that just because they’re larger than ever before, it doesn’t mean they can change the outcome of a race. Remember a few years ago when MWR couldn’t even make races, well now they’re just getting greedy. The team should be fortunate for having one car in the Chase, let alone trying to get two cars inside of it as well.
Now, thanks to their careless approach, the team will have only Bowyer in the Chase. Truthfully, Truex Jr. did not earn his way in the Chase. Newman and Jeff Gordon each were going to make it in. However, Bowyer’s spin killed Gordon’s chances and Joey Logano ended up barely making it in and now he’s the sixth seed. Yeah, how the heck did that happen?
Bowyer’s penalty just simply wasn’t enough. NASCAR feels that there isn’t enough evidence that Bowyer spun out on purpose. Let’s face it, he’s a great guy; he was just listening to team orders to help out his friend. His penalty won’t effect him entering the Chase and that’s a problem. Brad Keselowski got fined a ton of points just because of a few minor tweaks that had no advantage what so ever, yet Bowyer has not a single points effect that will determine the outcome of the championship. This is truly effecting NASCAR’s credibility.
Though it’s agreeable they made the right call for Truex Jr.’s penalty along with the No. 55 team and suspending Norris, they messed up on Bowyer. They should have at least suspended his crew chief for a portion of the Chase. What driver is going to have an “itchy” arm and spin out as he’s saying that? But hey, let NASCAR deal with the criticism for the rest of the year, especially is Bowyer is in contention to win the championship at Homestead.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.