After NASCAR handed down unprecedented penalties to Michael Waltrip Racing for the team’s actions during the closing laps of the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, it became evident that MWR’s Clint Bowyer got off scot-free.
Bowyer did receive a 50-point penalty, like his teammates. But, because the points deduction came after the race but before Chase seeding, Bowyer’s penalty was nullified when NASCAR reset the points.
NASCAR issued the penalties in this way because it would allow Ryan Newman to make the Chase instead of Martin Truex Jr — the MWR teammate who benefited from the team’s actions.
But Bowyer, who changed the outcome of the race with his spin, received no tangible penalty.
Unfortunately, there was no other way for NASCAR to handle the situation without creating more problems.
Mike Helton said that the clearest piece of evidence was the radio of MWR’s No. 55 Toyota driven by Brian Vickers. Ty Norris came over the radio and told Vickers to pit. Vickers was very surprised with the call to pit under green. After some back and forth over the radio, the following exchange occurred.
Norris told Vickers :
You’ve got to pit this time. We need that one point.
10-4. Do I got a tire going down?
Yeah… Come down pit road right now, get a good look at it.
That radio exchange was the reason for the penalty, not Bowyer’s spin. That exchange proves that MWR was trying to alter the Chase.
Bowyer’s radio exchange, while very suspicious, doesn’t concretely prove that his spin was intentional.
Bowyer’s crew chief Brian Pattie asked if his arm hurt, and later told him to “itch it.”Later, Pattie said that Bowyer has poison oak on his arm and that’s why they had that exchange at the end of the race. In Bowyer’s ESPN interview, he has his sleeves rolled up to just before his elbow. It’s hard to tell, but it doesn’t appear that he has poison oak, but he could have it higher on his arm. So, while this explanation seems like malarkey, it’s plausible.
Bowyer and Pattie maintain that the spin wasn’t intentional. And, without that admission or any other concrete proof, an additional penalty for Bowyer would mean NASCAR has started determining penalties based on hunches and suspicion, rather than tangible evidence. And that would be a dangerous precedent to set.
So, no matter how bad a taste this leaves in our mouths, NASCAR’s penalties were the right call.
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