Tuesday, September 10, 2013

NASCAR Got It Right But Not Entirely

Last night, NASCAR announced penalties for Michael Waltrip Racing in connection to team orders leading to a deliberate spin by Clint Bowyer  to cause a caution. Drivers Bowyer, Martin Truex, Jr. and Brian Vickers were all docked 50 drivers points, general manager Ty Norris has been suspended indefinitely and Michael Waltrip Racing was fined $300,000.

I applaud NASCAR for taking action but the penalties did not fairly disciplined the perpetrator. The penalties apply to the points after Richmond, not the Chase. So the points after Richmond saw Carl Edwards leading Jimmie Johnson by one point with Clint Bowyer in third with with Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Joey Logano rounding out the top five. Jeff Gordon was eleventh, a point behind Logano with Truex and Ryan Newman tied for twelfth and the final wild card with Truex holding the tiebreaker. Kasey Kahne clinched a wild card entering Richmond.

The 50 point penalties dropped Bowyer from third to seventh while Truex fell from tied for twelfth and out of a tie for the final wild card with Newman to seventeenth. Now reset the points for the Chase standings and Bowyer is at 2000 points, fifteen back of points leader Kenseth, the same gap there would have been if no penalty was given at all, Newman makes the Chase and Truex goes from fifteen back to Kenseth to 1,324 points back of Kenseth and out of championship contention.

NASCAR missed it. Bowyer's actions put the safety of himself and other competitors endanger and he virtually received no penalty. He is still only fifteen back of Kenseth and could end up champion at Homestead in November. Meanwhile, Truex, who very well could of had no knowledge of what Bowyer had done and what the plan was, gets knocked out of the Chase despite racing hard for the final wild card position the whole night. If NASCAR is going penalize Truex enough points to drop him out of the Chase and he did nothing wrong, Bowyer should have gotten the same punishment, if not a more severe punishment. Had NASCAR penalized the drivers 100 points, Bowyer drops from third to thirteenth and out of the Chase, while Truex would have fallen to twentieth. Jeff Gordon, who was just as much screwed out of a Chase spot by Bowyer's actions as Newman was, would have gotten the tenth and final spot and Newman would still have received the final wild card.

Imagine if in 1997, instead of excluding Michael Schumacher for trying to deliberately take out Jacques Villeneuve at Jerez, guaranteeing him the World Drivers' Championship, they excluded his Ferrari teammate Eddie Irvine because that would have taught them a lesson. By the way, Irvine finished 7th in the World Drivers' Championship with twenty-four points. Yeah, that would have taught Schumacher and everyone else a lesson for sure.

Don't get me wrong, I am ok with team orders and I see nothing wrong with what Brian Vickers did. He safely pulled off the race track and went a lap down, assuring his teammate Truex would finish ahead of him and earned an extra point. How is that any different than a teammate allowing another teammate by to lead a lap? Or what if Vickers was twelfth and Truex was thirteenth and Truex needed to finish twelfth to get the final wild card and Vickers let him by? Nothing wrong with that. I've been calling for Penske Racing to let Sam Hornish, Jr. win races because it makes no sense for him to finish second to Joey Logano or Brad Keselowski who are not eligible for the Nationwide Series championship. Clint Bowyer's actions took team orders too far and him and all of Michael Waltrip Racing deserve to be penalized.

I am glad NASCAR did something and not turn their heads and act as if nothing wrong happened. However, they failed to punished the one who caused this whole situation. Bowyer doesn't spin, we don't have an investigation, we don't have an 8:15 p.m. announcement on a Monday night and we don't have post after post, article after article about what transpired with seven laps to go at Richmond.

Bowyer can still win the championship and he's no farther back than he would have been if their was no penalty at all. Meanwhile, Truex is out of the championship hunt for what his teammate did. Talk about taking the fall for a teammate. Truex is taking the brute of the punishment he did not earn.