I like the old-school cheating in NASCAR. Junior Johnsons car tricks were good for him and his sport.
But altering a car is one thing. Taking a dive to alter the field for the Chase is another.
There was nothing charming about what Michael Waltrip Racing did at Richmond Saturday night.
With seven laps to go, MWRs Clint Bowyer spun his Toyota.
Look at the replay and tell me why. Bowyer was just cruising. Here he is, nice night for a drive, a spot in the Chase already assured and oh, no! His car is twirling around.
Its like the driver in front of you on I-485 drives calmly past the mall, past the slow guy who wont vacate the left lane, past the cell phone tower designed to look like a giant tree and then, whoa, hes spinning.
Why is he spinning? You cant spin unless you have a reason. Heres a possibility: Bowyers employers wanted him to raise smoke, create a restart and enable teammate Martin Truex Jr. make the Chase.
Ryan Newman, who was leading the Auto Parts 400, would clinch the final Chase spot with a victory. Listen to Bowyers radio before the spin.
Spotter Brett Griffin tells Bowyer that Newman is going to win.
Bowyer expresses displeasure.
Crew chief Brian Pattie: Is your arm starting to hurt?
Pattie adds: I bet its getting hot in there. Itch it.
Maybe Pattie is nothing more than a caring crew chief who is deeply concerned about Bowyers appendages as well as the temperature in the Toyota.
Or maybe its a tricky signal that only true racing professionals can decipher that means: My man, you are already in the Chase. Be a good teammate and bring the cars back together for a restart so Truex, and not Newman, has a chance to join you.
Whatever the reason, Truex is in and Newman is not.
(Dont you wish you could listen to team signals in other sports? Cam: Throw short.)
Even if Richmond International Raceway is banked 14 degrees in the turns, the playing field has to be level.
Spinning to spin is like taking a dive in a fight.
But boxing involves two athletes. Saturdays Sprint Cup race involved 43.
The incident has generated considerable attention for a sport that annually is buried by the NFLs opening games. The controversy has enticed people who otherwise wouldnt have noticed to notice.
NASCAR should be embarrassed by what they see.
MWR comes off like some kind of twisted fraternity, the end of the race a twisted fraternity prank. Except instead of khakis the perpetrators wear shirts with the names of sponsors on them. Hey, sponsors. How do you like us now?
The third MWR driver, Brian Vickers, was told to pull into his pit, a command that surprised him. He didnt even think MWR general manager Ty Norris was talking to him. Then came the explanation.
We need that one point, Norris said.
Truex needed it.
Drivers run all season to make the Chase. The hours they and their teams work are absurd. Their reward is the opportunity to win races and, perhaps, a championship.
At least one of them was cheated out of the opportunity.
Sorensen: 704-358-5129; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @tomsorensen
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