|The spin that wasn't|
Apparently not. At least not officially.
NASCAR spanked Bowyer’s team, Michael Waltrip Racing, with a wide range of penalties after reviewing the Richmond finish, citing MWR under the catchall “Actions detrimental to stock car racing,” clause. Each of the team’s three cars (Nos. 15, 55 and 56) were docked 50 championship driver points and 50 championship owner points and all three crew chiefs were placed on probation until the end of the year. MWR also was fined $300,000, the largest in NASCAR history and General Manager Ty Norris was suspended indefinitely. Norris apologized via Twitter for his part and MWR said it had no plans to appeal the penalties. Waltrip said he stood by Norris.
NASCAR assessed the penalties “following the season’s 26th regular season race and not after the seeding for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.” As a result Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the MWR’s No. 56, who benefitted from Bowyer’s slide to sneak into the Chase, was knocked out. Ryan Newman, who was leading at Richmond when Bowyer spun and eventually finished third, missing the Chase, was back in. Joey Logano, who also benefitted from the late race caution, is still in the Chase and Jeff Gordon, who suffered, is still out. NASCAR said it couldn't take into account the "ripple effect."
As result of that timing, Bowyer gets off pretty much scot-free. He’ll have the same number of points starting off the Chase as he would have before things started happening Saturday night.
NASCAR was in a tough position. With Bowyer continuing to claim he lost control of the car, the sanctioning body was faced with a choice of calling one of its tops drivers a liar and opening itself up to possible legal action, or penalizing the team in general. It picked the team.
“I'll have to leave it to you to decide if it's surprising or not, but our reaction was specifically geared toward reacting to Michael Waltrip Racing collectively,” said NASCAR President Mile Helton when asked why Bowyer hadn’t been singled out. “Cars spin out. We have cautions. There's a lot of things that happen on the racetrack that people speculate about why it happened or how it happened. Sometimes there's conclusive evidence. More often than not, though, you don't know exactly what happened. But the collection of all the information we collected from Saturday night led us to the team-wide reaction as opposed to an individual car.
“There's not conclusive evidence that the 15 spin was intentional. There's a lot of chatter, there's the video that shows a car spinning, but we didn't see anything conclusive that that was intentional.
"The preponderance of things that happened by Michael Waltrip Racing Saturday night, the most clear was the direction that the 55 driver was given and the confusion around it, and then the conversation following that occurrence is the most clear part of that preponderance."
I’ve always liked Bowyer. Who doesn’t (except possibly, Jeff Gordon). Or rather, who didn’t.
"No rearview mirrors in life, just windshield ahead," said Bowyer via Twitter after the NASCAR announcement. "It's been a great year and is going to be a great chase. Time to move on!!!"
Get ready for the boos Clint. I also suspect he’s lost a great deal of respect in the garage area. The whole MWR team has. Newman indicated as much on a call about his ride with Richard Childress Racing next season before NASCAR's announcement.
"I'd say the potential is not good for us to be cordial to each other," Newman said of MWR. "In the end, I was extremely disappointed to see and hear some of the things that went down."
That may be the harshest penalty of all.