With seven laps to go in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, Michael Waltrip Racing’s Clint Bowyer spun, bringing out the final caution and loads of controversy.
Ryan Newman was on his way to a win that would propel him into the Chase, knocking out Bowyer’s teammate Martin Truex Jr, who owned a tiebreaker over Newman.
Bowyer’s spotter came over the radio:
The [No.] 39 is going to win the race. Well, that kinda sucks.
Then Bowyer’s crew chief Brian Pattie came over the radio:
Is your arm starting to hurt? I bet it’s getting hot in there. Itch it.
Bowyer seemed to acknowledge Pattie’s comments:
Seconds later, Bowyer spun.
At first, I wanted to give Bowyer the benefit of the doubt. From the original replay it looked like Earnhardt Jr might have gotten into the back of him.
But, when it was slowed down, I could clearly see that Earnhardt Jr never touched him, and that his claims of problems with the car were a complete fabrication.
Bowyer said after the race:
I think we had a flat tire or something. … I got down in there and it kept getting tighter and tighter and tighter and then [Dale Earnhardt Jr] got in there and by the time I got back to the gas he got into me and I had so much wheel in it, that it just snapped around.
If Bowyer really did have a flat tire or another problem, why didn’t he indicate it on the radio? He never mentioned a vibration or a sputter, nor did the car give an indication. Bowyer even looked relatively smooth on the wheel up to the point where he spun.
Earnhardt Jr did not get into the back of him; the video clearly refutes that claim.
Also, Bowyer appears to get on the brakes earlier in Turn 3 than he did on the previous lap. Earnhardt Jr, who had a clear view, agrees:
He was hemming around on the brakes and jerking the car around, and then the thing just spun out. It was crazy. I don’t know what was going on.
And, after the race, it is being reported that team co-owner Michael Waltrip said to Truex Jr:
You’ve got awesome teammates.
And Truex replied:
That seems like an odd thing to say when your teammate’s only contribution to you having a good race is spinning to bring out the caution that gets you into the Chase.
At the end of the day, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s almost certainly an intentional spin!