CONCORD, N.C. — Ryan Newman replaced Martin Truex Jr. in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship Monday when NASCAR penalized Michael Waltrip Racing for manipulating the outcome of Saturday’s race at Richmond.
Michael Waltrip Racing was fined $300,000, and general manager Ty Norris received an indefinite suspension. Truex, Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers were docked 50 points apiece — but Bowyer’s deduction does not affect his position in the Chase, which begins Sunday at Chicago.
“We penalize to not have this happen again,” NASCAR President Mike Helton said. “It’s a message from the league saying ‘You can’t do this.’ ”
Newman was leading with seven laps remaining Saturday at Richmond, where a victory would have given him the final spot in the 12-driver Chase field. But Bowyer spun to bring out a caution, setting in motion a chain of events that led to Newman losing the race and Bowyer teammate Truex earning the final Chase berth.
NASCAR reviewed communication between Bowyer and his Michael Waltrip Racing crew that seemed to indicate the spin was deliberate, as well as evidence that suggested MWR had Bowyer and Vickers take a dive in the final three laps so Joey Logano would knock Jeff Gordon out of Chase contention in another attempt to help Truex.
NASCAR did not adjust the standings to put Gordon into the Chase — he was in before Bowyer’s spin — because Helton said it was impossible to address all the scenarios.
The AP reviewed team communications for Bowyer and Vickers, and Vickers was told by Norris to pit because “We need that one point.”
“We’re probably going to pit here on green,” Norris says.
“Are you talking to me?” a surprised Vickers asks.
Vickers continued to question the call, asking, “I don’t understand. Pit right now?”
“You’ve got to pit this time. We need that one point,” Norris replies.
“10-4. Do I got a tire going down?” Vickers asked.
Vickers pitted as the field went green. When he asked after if his crew found anything with the tire, Norris replied, “I’ll see you after the race, Brian. I owe you a kiss.”
Bowyer denied Saturday night that he intentionally spun and that Truex was an unwitting participant. Waltrip said the team will learn from what happened and move on.
MWR can appeal the penalties, which included placing crew chiefs Brian Pattie (Bowyer), Scott Miller (Vickers) and Chad Johnston (Truex) on probation through the end of the year. It won’t change Truex’s status in the Chase.
“Obviously, we’re very pleased with NASCAR’s decision to provide Ryan Newman’s rightful place in this year’s Chase,” SHR co-owner Tony Stewart said. “NASCAR was put in a very difficult position Saturday night at Richmond and we commend the sanctioning body for taking the time to do the necessary due diligence to ensure that the right call was made.”