Written By USA Today
CONCORD, N.C. - NASCAR took the unprecedented step of effectively altering its results Monday, putting Ryan Newman into the Chase for the Sprint Cup and removing Martin Truex Jr.
Gone from the Chase for the Sprint Cup is Michael Waltrip Racing driver Truex Jr., who made the Chase after teammates Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers manipulated the outcome of Saturday night's Richmond race under orders from the team.
Although Newman, whose Chase hopes were seemingly thwarted by MWR's foul play, was installed into the Chase, Jeff Gordon, who was also a victim, remained out.
NASCAR levied a record-setting fine of $300,000 and docked each driver 50 points.
Curiously, though, it made the points penalty affect only the regular season - meaning Bowyer will be able to start the Chase only 15 points behind leader Matt Kenseth.
Newman made the Chase and Gordon did not because the 50 points dropped Truex behind Newman in the wild card race. Gordon failed to make the top 10 in points and was not eligible for a wild card.
MWR general manager Ty Norris, who ordered Vickers to pit late in Saturday race, also was suspended indefinitely.
Newman was en route to making the 10-race playoff with a victory Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway until Clint Bowyer spun out by himself with seven laps left.
Radio chatter and in-car camera footage later revealed Clint Bowyer may have spun out on purpose. Afterward, Bowyer lost two laps and teammate Brian Vickers mysteriously pitted, helping MWR's Martin Truex Jr. make the Chase instead of Newman (the outcome was decided on a tiebreaker).
Newman initially declined to comment on the possible funny business, but after getting more information said he believed MWR directly manipulated the outcome.
"It's pretty obvious to me the decisions that were made and the communication led up to that," he said before the announcement. "What happened to me on Saturday night is the toughest thing I've ever gone through in any kind of racing in my 30 years of driving because of the way everything went down. In hindsight, it hurt that much more."
Jeff Gordon also missed the Chase when MWR's tactics put Joey Logano into the top 10 and bumped Gordon out.
With MWR teammate Truex Jr. among a handful of drivers fighting for a wild card slot, the timing and the way Bowyer spun seemed suspicious to some.
MWR teammate Vickers also was embroiled in the controversy thanks to math. Numbers from the last lap reveal the following: Vickers ran a 79.564-mph lap - more than 30-50 mph slower than any other car in the top 25. Bowyer also managed to lose two laps and nine positions by seemingly dawdling in the pits despite a fairly harmless spin that caused little damage to his No. 15 Camry.
The result? Joey Logano gained enough points on Jeff Gordon to knock him from the top 10 -- and a championship berth - and open a wild-card slot for Truex Jr.
Here's a look at the in-car audio from Bowyer and Vickers:
Clint Bowyer audio
With nine laps to go
Spotter Brett Griffin: "(No.) 39 (Ryan Newman) is going to win the race. ... Well, that kinda sucks. Nine more (laps) right here."
Crew chief Brian Pattie: "Is your arm starting to hurt? I bet it's hot in there. Itch it."
Clint Bowyer: "Oh yeah."
Griffin: "Right with you, 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). Right with you, right with you, right with you."
(Bowyer spins out)
Pattie: "I think that tire was going down the whole time, man."
Brian Vickers audio
(With four laps to go)
Crew: "We're probably going to pit here on green."
Vickers: "Are you talking to me?
Crew: "Yeah, we're going to pit."
Vickers: "What? I've got to pit? ... I don't understand. Pit right now?"
Crew: "You've got to pit this time. We need that one point."
Vickers: "10-4. Do I got a tire going down?"
Crew: "Yeah. ... Come down pit road right now, get a good look at it."
Vickers: "Did you find anything?"
Crew: "I'll see you after the race, Brian. I owe you a kiss."
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