Did Penske deal get Logano into Chase?
By JENNA FRYER
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | September 12,2013
Penske Racing may have cut a deal with Front Row Motorsports in the closing laps at Richmond for track position to help get Joey Logano in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
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 him in the final laps of Saturday night’s race.
Logano was trying to claim a spot in the 12-driver Chase field. Both Penske and Front Row are Ford teams and thus considered partners.
A voice on the radio, believed to be crew chief Frank Kerr, asks who 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.”
Statistics analyzed by AP also show Gilliland’s lap times dropped off by almost 1 second from the times he was running prior to the radio communication.
NASCAR has already punished Michael Waltrip Racing for manipulating the end of Saturday night’s race at Richmond.
Ryan Newman was on his way to a victory that would have given him the final spot in the Chase championship field. But Clint Bowyer spun to bring out a caution, setting in motion a chain of events that cost Newman the win and the Chase berth, cost Jeff Gordon a Chase berth and put Martin Truex Jr. and Logano in the final two spots.
NASCAR, concluding that MWR had manipulated the outcome of the race, put Newman in the Chase and bumped Truex. It also fined MWR $300,000 and suspended general manager Ty Norris indefinitely, Bowyer, Truex and Brian Vickers were docked 50 points each, and their crew chiefs were placed on probation through the end of the year.
Bowyer has denied the spin was deliberate. NASCAR could only prove one action — radio communication between Norris and Vickers in which a confused Vickers was told to pit as the field went green with three laps to go. The call was an effort to give Logano position on the track to pass Gordon in the standings and knock Gordon out of the Chase so that Truex could gain a Chase wild-card berth.
Now there may be more for NASCAR to look at ahead of Sunday’s race at Chicagoland — the first Chase race.