By admin | September 8, 2013
By Richard Allen
There is quite an uproar in the NASCAR world after this weekend at the Richmond International Raceway. Late in the much ballyhooed “regular season finale” and the race that would determine the field for the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup, Michael Waltrip Racing driver Clint Bowyer spun to bring out a race altering caution.
Many have speculated that Bowyer’s spin was done on purpose to aid his MWR teammate Martin Truex, Jr., who was on the verge of missing the Chase without some help.
Ryan Newman took the lead of the race with 10 laps remaining. Had he gone on to win, it would have been his second victory of the season and would have assured him of a wildcard berth into the ten race championship playoff. Kasey Kahne had fallen to the point that he was no longer inside the top-10 of the standings, which meant that with his two wins he would take the other wildcard spot. That would leave Truex, with his one race win, on the outside looking in.
However, when Bowyer spun with seven laps remaining, new life was breathed into Truex’s chances. A slow pit stop for Newman put him back in the pack with little chance of getting back to the front before the checkered flag. Without a win, Newman would lose out to Truex for the wildcard spot since each driver had one win and Truex held the tie-breaker.
“I wanted to go for four tires,” an obviously agitated Newman said of the final pit stop that dropped him from the lead. “I expected my pit crew to do a better job and they didn’t. It’s frustrating.”
But back to the question of Bowyer’s spin. Was it on purpose?
The answer to that is, why wouldn’t it be?
Vote in the poll question that asks your opinion on Bowyer’s spin——————–>
When asked about the legitimacy of his spin, Bowyer replied, “I know it’s a lot of fun for you guys to write a lot of wacky things. Go ahead if you want to. Get creative. But don’t look too much into it.”
This whole sport of Sprint Cup racing is centered on one thing- making the Chase. Because of the television networks’ desire to build a week-to-week theme, they and NASCAR focus a very bright spotlight on it. It has become all that matters and teams have to do whatever it takes to be a part of the playoff. It has come to overshadow individual races so much that in-race and post-race updates on the standings have become the most important statistics shown.
Drivers and teams measure their success by whether or not they made the Chase, not how many races they won. For proof of that, when Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and the fall race at Charlotte in 2010, his season was considered a failure because he didn’t make the Chase and the rules for making the playoff were changed so that wildcard participants could be allowed in so that drivers in the future wouldn’t be considered a failure for such a season.
Sponsors base their backing of teams based on whether or not the team receiving their money can make the Chase. That, in turn, has created an environment in which the mega-teams have a distinct advantage over smaller operations.
With the Chase set up as the only thing that matters, why wouldn’t Bowyer spin on purpose to help the organization he drives for make the playoff? To not do so could put the whole enterprise in jeopardy of losing sponsorship, and thus, survivability.
And it wasn’t just MWR who was up to such shenanigans on Saturday night in Richmond. Hendrick Motorsports drivers were being reminded of Jeff Gordon’s situation and were essentially told to lay over for the #24 car in order to give him the best chance to make the Chase.
When Brad Keselowski fell back in the pack after being caught in the pits when a caution came out, his crew chief urged him to do whatever it took, including use his front bumper, to get back into Chase contention.
IT’S ALL THAT MATTERS!
Forget everything else and concentrate solely on making the Chase. No one race is bigger. Fox commentator Larry McReynolds has pointed out before that the leader of lap one in the season opening Daytona 500 just earned a bonus point toward the Chase. That’s the first lap of a 36 race season and points are already being counted.
NASCAR officials get angry when comparisons are made to professional wrestling after perfect scenarios fall into place, often with the use of debris cautions and mysterious pit road speeding penalties. A fake spin, if it was indeed that, will only add to the comparisons.
One aspect of the sport has been made into a be all, end all. Don’t be surprised when teams and drivers contrive ways to get into a contrived “championship battle”.
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