Radio communication between teams at center of latest drama
CHICAGO -- NASCAR has been alerted to another potential issue from Saturday night’s event at Richmond International Raceway, this time involving the teams of Joey Logano and David Gilliland -- but hasn’t yet seen enough evidence to hand out any penalties.
On Thursday, NASCAR issued the following statement: "NASCAR is continuing to gather all the facts from last Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Richmond International Raceway. NASCAR will have no further comment until all the facts have been examined."
The Associated Press on Wednesday reported radio communications between the No. 38 and No. 22 teams that it alleges may have helped Logano get into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The Penske Racing driver passed two cars in the waning laps to earn the 10th and final playoff position based on the standings, by one point over Jeff Gordon.
According to the AP, Gilliland slowed on the final lap so Logano could pass him and earn one more point. Logano would have earned the 10th Chase spot without that pass, since he has a race victory on the season and Gordon does not, giving the Penske driver the head-to-head tiebreaker.
NASCAR said in a statement Wednesday that is looking into the latest allegations involving Gilliland and Logano, but no immediate action was forthcoming.
“NASCAR is aware of reports about the No. 22 and No. 38 radio communications at Richmond International Raceway and is looking into it,” the sanctioning body said, “but has yet to see anything in full context that requires any action.”
The latest allegation comes two days after NASCAR hit Michael Waltrip Racing with one of the biggest penalties in the sport’s history for what the sanctioning body deemed a manipulation of the Richmond race to help MWR driver Martin Truex Jr. earn the final Wild Card spot. Those penalties knocked Truex out of the playoff and replaced him with Ryan Newman of Stewart-Haas Racing.
Gordon addressed the matter before an event Wednesday in Kannapolis, NC, to benefit the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation.
"I haven’t heard the audio; I heard about it," Gordon said. "So I really don’t want to speculate on it. All I can say is I feel our team deserves to be in this thing based on everything that went on on Saturday night, based on our performance and I’d love to see us in it and if we’re not, it brings on a whole other level of motivation for us to go race for these next 10 weeks."
Penalties to MWR included 50-point deductions in the pre-Chase point totals to drivers Truex, Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers, a record fine of $300,000 to the organization, probation through the end of the year to all three crew chiefs, and the indefinite suspension of Ty Norris, MWR’s executive vice president as well as Vickers’ spotter.
It was an unexpected command to Vickers to pit in the final laps which convinced NASCAR that something was afoot. Bowyer also suspiciously spun by himself to bring out the final caution with seven laps remaining, which helped keep Newman from winning and clinching the second Wild Card on his own.
The 10-event playoff begins Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway with Matt Kenseth as the top seed.