Just as NASCAR was cleaning up its mess, booting Martin Truex Jr. from the Chase for the Sprint Cup after his teammates conspired to bone Ryan Newman, comes more controversy! Was there more collusion afoot at Richmond? Did Jeff Gordon get screwed? Is NASCAR infinitely more fun with these shenanigans going on? That's a 10-4 to all.
If you haven't been paying attention, here's the Cliff's Notes. Truex needed a good showing at Richmond on Saturday to earn his way into the Chase, NASCAR's playoff series. But Ryan Newman had the inside track, and was leading the race with seven laps to go. Truex's teammate Clint Bowyer intentionally spun out, drawing a caution flag and a pit stop that Newman wasn't able to recover from. Another teammate then pitted to allow Joey Logano to gain position, which eliminated Truex's other threat, Jeff Gordon.
On Monday, NASCAR docked Truex and the rest of his team points, righted one of the wrongs, and put Newman into the Chase. No luck for Gordon. "Jeff Gordon got robbed," his team owner said.
Yesterday, the Associated Press revealed that Logano had some more help overtaking Gordon, from fellow Ford racer (but not teammate!) David Gilliland.
In radio communications reviewed Wednesday by The Associated Press for Front Row driver David Gilliland, his spotter informs the team of a request to let Logano pass Gilliland in the final laps of Saturday night's race.
A voice on the radio, believed to be crew chief Frank Kerr, asks whom the request is coming from. The spotter replies: "We've got the big dog and all his cronies."
Kerr then says: "Travis knows what I've been asking for," an apparent reference to Penske Racing competition director Travis Geisler.
Logano passed Gilliland on a restart and finished 22nd, one spot ahead of Gilliland and good enough for a berth in the Chase field.
"Good job, good job, man," the spotter says after the race. "Hopefully we'll get something out of that."
NASCAR says it "is continuing to gather all the facts," but where does this end? If it goes back through a season's worth of radio chatter and penalizes every driver who dogged a few laps to help out a teammate, it'd be a pretty empty Chase field. Unless NASCAR wants to blow up the multi-car team model, it'll just have to tell crews to be a little more circumspect on the radio.