JOLIET, Ill. — Weary from the cleanup of the manipulations to its championship field, NASCAR sought to restore its credibility Saturday with a stern warning about “artificially altering” events.
NASCAR chairman Brian France told the teams he expects them “to give 100 percent” at all times. He met with them for nearly 20 minutes between practices at Chicagoland Speedway on the eve of the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
“I think we wanted to be very clear and we wanted to reinforce the cornerstone of NASCAR, which is giving your all,” France said. “We addressed team rules, a variety of other things, all designed to do what our fans expect, and that means that their driver and their team give 100 percent to finish as high up in a given race as possible. We were very clear about that. That’s our expectations.”
The warning came after an unprecedented week for NASCAR, which has been rocked by developments since Clint Bowyer spun his car with seven laps remaining last Saturday night in the race that completed the 12-driver field for the Chase.
The central piece of evidence was radio communications, and the penalties against MWR set off a chain of events NASCAR never anticipated.
Next came allegations of a scheme to sell track position and a new investigation involving deep-pocketed Penske Racing and tiny Front Row Motorsports.
It culminated Friday with France’s stunning decision to expand the Chase field to 13 drivers to accommodate Jeff Gordon, who had been bumped out of the Chase by the shenanigans of three drivers.
Gordon was pleased with the ruling, but uncomfortable with the way the week developed.
“The integrity of the sport has been put at question,” Gordon admitted. “I think we have one of the greatest sports that exists. To see our integrity questioned is very upsetting to me, and I think we, along with NASCAR, have to solve this. I wish it had not happened under these circumstances.”
When told to relay that information to Logano’s spotter, the crew chief is told the request for track position is coming from the “whole committee.”
“We’ve got the big dog and all of his cronies,” the spotter said in an apparent reference to team owner Roger Penske and other team employees.
NASCAR has tightened many of the areas that allowed the manipulations to occur in a series of new rules that were outlined for the teams and will begin Sunday. Among them:
Paul Wolfe, crew chief for defending series champion Brad Keselowski, said NASCAR was clear in its meeting.
“I think it got everyone’s attention,” Wolfe said. “I think everyone should have a pretty clear understanding ... if you go out there and run 100 percent to your ability and run a normal race, then everything will be fine.”
Seven-time champion and Hall of Famer Richard Petty believes none of the events at Richmond differed from what occurred a week earlier at Atlanta. But because of the stakes — 10 drivers vying for five Chase berths — he said the actions of a few were magnified and NASCAR had to act.
“If it had happened at Atlanta, nobody would have paid any attention to it,” Petty said. “But, it was a perfect storm (at Richmond). That’s what makes such a big deal out of it.”
KYLE BUSCH DOMINATES: In Joliet, Ill., pole-sitter Kyle Busch dominated from start to finish, leading 195 of 200 laps en route to winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Busch faced few serious threats, building his lead to seven-plus seconds to earn his 10th win in 20 Nationwide Series starts this season.
It was Busch’s 61st career win in 264 career Nationwide starts, and his 123rd overall win across all three of NASCAR’s top series.
Busch also won Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race and goes for a second career weekend sweep in Sunday’s opener of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship playoffs.
Busch previously won races in all three series on the same weekend at Bristol in August 2010.
Joey Logano finished second, followed by Nationwide Series points leader Sam Hornish Jr., Austin Dillon.
and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Brian Vickers, Matt Kenseth, Parker Kligerman, Kevin Harvick and Nelson Piquet Jr. rounded out the top 10.
Rookie Kyle Larson started 39th and worked his way up as high as third in the final quarter of the race. However, a tire that began rubbing on the 165th lap led to Larson spinning out and hitting the wall 10 laps later, ending his chance of catching Busch. Larson finished 32nd.
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