How much more crazy of a week could NASCAR have? I’ve seen strange things occur in my day of being a fan, and strange things happen on the track, but I’ve never seen a week like NASCAR has experienced.
The race last week at Richmond set off a firestorm of controversy, mainly just due to the final seven laps. Let’s see how we can recap this…Clint Bowyer spins out, and the field pits, gets shuffled, and then right at the green flag Brian Vickers comes to pit road. Carl Edwards goes on to win, and somehow Martin Truex Jr. landed the final Wild Card spot in the Chase…or so we thought.
Monday comes around and NASCAR was reviewing what had occurred in the race, and made some monumental decisions. As I said last week, the entire Michael Waltrip Racing team got fined a record $300,000, each team losing 50 points prior to Chase seeding, and in doing so Truex Jr. was out of the Chase, and Ryan Newman was added. The reason why, there was evidence that the team was trying to manipulate the finish, or cause artificial results to better benefit the team.
NASCAR then on Friday said they were going to talk to drivers and owners about a new rule to prevent such an incident, but before that could happen, even more controversy came about.
Discussion about Penske Racing and Front Row Motorsports came about regarding their team communication during that race, and while there was some evidence of some sort of deal made, but nothing proved conclusive. Both teams were put on probation for the remainder of the year, but the ultimate surprise came afterward.
CEO of NASCAR, Brian France, made the monumental call that Jeff Gordon, who was just one point outside the Chase after Richmond, was added to the title hunt as the 13th driver. Why?…France felt that with all that had happened it had placed Gordon at an unfair disadvantage, and that he would have been that last driver in the Chase, as far as being in the top-10, and that because of that, he was then added as yet another driver to contend for the championship.
Can anybody follow all this? NASCAR has since seen a big black cloud hang over their head, and it was apparent at Chicagoland Speedway, the first Chase race. Sure, the weather had some effect, the race was red-flagged before halfway and delayed five hours due to rain, but even before that, the grandstands looked very bare. Actually, they looked extremely bare. Fans were getting restless with NASCAR, and once the red flag was put out for rain, even after the fact that the race was run at night, not many fans returned. Fans were not happy with France, Mike Helton (President of NASCAR), and Robin Pemberton (Competition Director), and showed it by not showing up at the track.
I can’t blame them, this has been a controversial week for the sport, both in how the Chase was set then reset, and how NASCAR handled the situation once they arrived at the Chicagoland Speedway.
It truly overshadowed the fact that Matt Kenseth, the Chase leader entering the weekend, led the most laps and won the race. Kind of sad because entering this event Kenseth was the favorite to win the title, and another win drove that point home. But where does NASCAR go from here? How do they get back the fans they most likely lost with such a debacle?
At this point, not even I know if that’s possible. Only time will tell.
RESULTS: 1-Kenseth 2-Kyle Busch 3-Harvick 4-Kurt Busch 5-Johnson 6-Gordon 7-Keselowski 8-Stenhouse Jr. 9-Bowyer 10-Newman
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Edwards 12-Kahne 16-Biffle 20-Patrick 35-Earnhardt Jr. 37-Logano
CAUTIONS: 9 for 46 laps. Lap 32-37 (Competition), 109-116 (Rain [RED FLAG-Lap 110: 5 Hrs, 10 Mins, 21 Secs.]), 123-128 (Debris), 149-152 (#51 spin-BS), 154-158 (Oil on track from #30), 169-172 (Debris), 177-181 (Oil on track from #22), 227-230 (Oil on track from #88), 241-244 (#27, 51 Accident-T4).
LEAD CHANGES: 25 among 16 drivers. Logano 1-32, Cassill 33, Johnson 34-36, Kyle Busch 37, Johnson 38-74, Kenseth 75, Gordon 76-77, Harvick 78, Edwards 79, Newman 80, McMurray 81-82, Kenseth 83-112, Keselowski 113, Kenseth 114-148, Almirola 149, Yeley 150-151, Gordon 152-168, Keselowski 169, Biffle 170-171, Kyle Busch 172-219, Harvick 220, Earnhardt Jr 221-222, Ragan 223, Gordon 224-226, Kyle busch 227-244, Kenseth 245-267.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 10 Mins, 56 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 125.855 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.749 Seconds
CHASE FOR THE SPRINT CUP: 1. Kenseth, 2063 points; 2. Kyle Busch, -8; 3. Johnson, -11; 4. Harvick, -15; 5. Edwards, -23; 6. Kurt Busch, -23; 7. Gordon, -24; 8. Newman, -28; 9. Bowyer, -28; 10. Kahne, -31; 11. Biffle, -31; 12. Logano, -52; 13. Earnhardt Jr, -53.