Richmond left much to unravel

Jeff Birchfield • Sep 10, 2013 at 7:15 PM

For the most part, NASCAR got it right with the historic penalties levied against Michael Waltrip Racing following Saturday’s shenanigans at the end of the Richmond race.I totally agree with the $300,000 fine, by far the largest ever given to a single organization, placed against MWR. The 50-point penalty which knocked Martin Truex Jr. out of the Chase for the Championship playoffs and put Ryan Newman into the Chase is also to be commended. Newman was on his way to winning Saturday night’s race if not for the intentional spin by Clint Bowyer with seven laps to go.This is where it gets a little murky.Jeff Gordon fans are arguing their driver should be in the Chase also, since he was in position to overtake Joey Logano for the 10th place in points before Bowyer’s spin. His spin, along with another Michael Waltrip Racing driver, Brian Vickers, pulling in the pits with one lap to go eliminated both Newman and Gordon from the Chase.While Gordon’s fans make a valid point, I agree with the statement of NASCAR president Mike Helton of not trying to look at the ripple effect and cover all the bases across the board. Logano was the unintended lucky receipent of the whole mess, while Gordon was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.NASCAR got it right with the indefinite suspension of Ty Norris, the general manager at Michael Waltrip Racing who orchestrated the whole fiasco, rather clumisly with all the radio chatter providing the evidence against him. Vickers was also charged with a 50-point penalty as was Bowyer.While the penalty obviously had a negative effect on Truex and some negative effect on Vickers, it’s Gordon’s contention that Bowyer basically got off scot-free since the Chase points were reset. While some will downplay it as Gordon not being a Bowyer fan since their altercation at Phoenix last season, it’s a good point.Bowyer’s 50-point penalty should be at the start of the Chase. His team earned its way in the 10-race playoff, actually leading the points coming into Richmond, but there should be a penalty that truly punishes him for his actions on Saturday.There are so many layers to this and plenty of awkward situations.Newman and Truex are fishing buddies, probably as close friends as you will find in the whole NASCAR garage. Bowyer is another of Newman’s close friends; they are even scheduled to go on a hunting trip together next week.Bowyer called Newman on Monday to apologize for his actions, which Newman described as out of character for Bowyer. He cut Bowyer more slack than would be expected in an interview with ESPN.Bowyer then backtracked somewhat, saying his apology to Newman isn’t an admission of guilt. Same goes for Waltrip, who congratulated Truex after the race telling him what great teammates he has. Since then, he’s pleaded ignorance, saying he standing behind Norris, who made a split-second decision in the heat of the moment.For his part, Newman and his team owner Tony Stewart were simply relieved the wrong was righted. They each released statements applauding NASCAR’s decision.“I am proud that NASCAR took a stand with respect to what went on Saturday night at Richmond,” Newman said. “I know it was a tough decision to make. With that being said, myself, Matt Borland (crew chief) and this entire No. 39 team are looking forward to competing for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.”Before too much credit is given to NASCAR, the officials running the race at Richmond totally whiffed on the race itself.As former NASCAR champion Dale Jarrett pointed out, race winner Carl Edwards clearly jumped the final restart. He should have been black-flagged, which would have given the win to Kurt Busch. NASCAR also caught criticism for its handling of the final restart during Friday’s Nationwide Series race, won by Brad Keselowski. His final restart cost Brian Scott a first series victory.The whole language of manipulating a race outcome opens NASCAR up to further criticism.Anytime there is a debris caution, there is usually suspicion of NASCAR displaying the yellow flag to simply tighten up the race. For the racers, there are plenty of opportunities to help out a teammate and even to cross the line of fair competition like Saturday night. If they’re not so blatant about it as the MWR team was, it’s a hard case to prove, leading to even tougher days ahead for NASCAR.———The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the Screamin’ Eagle Motorcycle Series were at Bristol Dragway this past weekend with Anthony Bertozzi of Ashland, Va., the big winner.Bertozzi won in Top Dragster and was runner-up to Florida driver Gary Coccaro in the Super Stock division. Regular Bristol Dragway competitor James Stahl of Boone, N.C., was runner-up in Super Comp, while the Top Fuel Harley title went to Doug Horne. The Maryland racer went 228.15 mph to beat Tommy Grimes of Winston-Salem in the final round.The Street Fights program return to Bristol this Thursday with racing scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. The DER Bracket Series take over the dragway on Friday with time trials, followed by more qualifying and racing on Saturday.———The UARA-STARS series comes to Kingsport Speedway Saturday for the Model City 150.There is a tightly contested points race with Dillon Bassett of Winston-Salem holding just a two-point lead over fellow North Carolina racer Garrett Campbell at the top of the standings.Besides the UARA drivers, five of the top Kingsport Speedway regulars are entered in Saturday’s race. They include: Lee Tissot, Daniel Pope, Blake Jones, Kres VanDyke and Paul Nogradi. Qualifying is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. with a meet-and-greet autograph session scheduled for 7 p.m. Racing is slated to begin at 8 p.m.The Pure 4, Rookie Pure 4 and Legends divisions are also scheduled to be in action.

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