The Final Word* – Who wins NASCAR’s Cup title matters less than that MWR does notBy Ron Thornton
Carl Edwards jumps the late re-start and NASCAR says nary a word as he beats Kurt Busch for the win at Richmond. Yet, that is not the story of the week. Carl may have stole three bonus points for the Chase, may have kept Busch from taking his Furniture Row team to Victory Lane, but few fans were lost to the non-call. What happened a few laps earlier to bring out that caution with seven to go, well that is entirely another matter.
With seven to go, Ryan Newman is leading the race. If he managed to hold off Kurt Busch he would have earned his second win and a place in the Chase. Kasey Kahne was outside the Top Ten, but with two wins the first wild card spot was his. Jeff Gordon held the 10th spot as they ran, moving Joey Logano out, and Martin Truex Jr found himself potentially with no hope for a wild card if Newman won or Logano finished outside the Top Ten in points. What to do, what to do?
Truex had a team mate already locked in the Chase in Clint Bowyer. In-car audio shows Bowyer was informed of the situation on the track, that “the 39 is going to win the race.” About 20 seconds later, we heard the comment “well that kinda sucks.” We heard Bowyer asked “is your arm starting to hurt” and if the car was getting hot inside. The in-car video shows Bowyer shortly after jerking the wheel going through the turn, we saw him spin out, and we heard him claim that Dale Earnhardt Jr got into him. We also heard Junior say it was the “craziest thing I ever saw.”
“He was hemming around on the brakes and jerking the car around” and he wondered if NASCAR might take a look at the telemetry to see exactly what took place. Earnhardt said he almost got in to him. Almost. The resulting spin caused Bowyer to come into the pits, and sit. And sit. We also saw team mate Brian Vickers slowing down to within 20 mph of pace car speed on the final lap. Bowyer finished 25th on the day, 2 laps down with Vickers 24th, a lap down. This help ensure the 23rd place Logano, also a lap down, got the spots he needed to finish a point ahead of Gordon in the top ten in points. Newman’s pit crew messed up the last stop so he dropped from first to fifth for the re-start and finished third on the day. Truex was within four positions of him to make the Chase on a tie-breaker. .
A lot of fans seem rather upset with how things went down at Richmond. Even if NASCAR decided to lay penalties of any kind, it would not change the fact that Newman and Gordon are out and Truex is in. They could park Bowyer for a race to ruin his title hopes, I guess, but you know they won’t. Was it illegal or did they simply take advantage of the rules, or lack of them? Was it unethical? I guess that all depends on what your ethics are.
I almost forgot about MWR’s beginnings, the illegal fuel additive discovered in Waltrip’s own car in qualifying for the 2007 Daytona 500. Toyota did not like that then, so I wonder how this will play considering their corporate culture in Japan? I wonder what a man of principle like Joe Gibbs, also part of the Toyota family, thinks of how this went down? All I can say, for myself, I do not care if MWR, Waltrip, Bowyer, Truex, Vickers, or even Toyota ever win another damn race.
Rating Richmond – 8.5/10 – With all that was at stake, with drivers coming and going as far as their fate was concerned for the Chase, along with the controversial conclusion, it was damned entertaining to watch.
We must give credit where credit is due. If what took place is how we believe it took place, it was masterful manipulation of a situation in a relatively short period of time in order to pull this off. You could say it was brilliant. I just do not have to like it or respect it. As a fan, it gives me a car brand, a team owner, and a bunch of drivers I do not have to respect or support. If they have the same luck in the Chase as Jimmie Johnson has had over the past few weeks, with finishes of 40th, 36th, 28th, and 40th, it would put a big ole smile on this face. It would appear that to be one of my favorites, all you need to do is drive a Chevy or a Ford and not be part of MWR. Except for Logano, and I still like Kyle Busch and Coach Gibbs. Maybe Toyota just needs to rethink the company they keep.
Some thought Stewart-Haas was bringing in the bad boys of racing under one umbrella next season. Me thinks that honor goes to MWR, from top to bottom. Now, to make this one fan a happy man, let us commence to beat and bang on those boys in the black hats from Chicago right through to Homestead this fall. Trusting Karma to do her worst, let the games begin. Enjoy the week.
*This was written last Sunday, just as NASCAR is reportedly investigating the spin. This might not be the “Final Word” after all on the events at Richmond, depending on the outcome of that investigation.