CONCORD, N.C. — Ryan Newman replaced Martin Truex Jr. in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship Monday night 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 did 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 night 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 ultimately led to Newman losing the race and Bowyer teammate Truex earning the final Chase berth.
While examining the situation, NASCAR reviewed communication between Bowyer and his Michael Waltrip Racing crew that seemed to indicate the spin was deliberate, as well as additional evidence that suggested MWR had Bowyer and Vickers take a dive over the final three laps so Joey Logano would knock Jeff Gordon out of Chase contention in yet 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.
“We know from experience, if you try to look at ripple effect, you can’t cover all bases that’s equitable and credible across board,” said Helton, who also said NASCAR was unable to prove Bowyer spun intentionally. “There’s a lot of chatter, but we didn’t see any conclusive evidence.”