Monday, September 9, 2013

Penalty for MWR sends a message

Bowyer brings out the caution at RIR - Streeter Lecka Getty Images for NASCAR
Monday evening NASCAR called a press conference to discuss penalties assessed to Michael Waltrip Racing for the combined actions of the organization during the final race of the regular season Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.

Just prior to the media availability, NASCAR released a statement with the details.

MWR was found to have violated Section 12-4 (Actions detrimental to stock car racing). As a result, NASCAR docked all three teams 50 owner points. The No. 15 and the No. 56 lost 50 driver championship points. While the release included the No. 55 with the driver point deduction, Brian Vickers is competing for the NASCAR Nationwide Championship, so is not eligible for driver points in the Sprint Cup Series.

In addition, the MWR organization also received a $300,000 fine and Executive Vice President -General Manager and spotter for the No. 55 car, Ty Norris, was indefinitely suspended. The crew chiefs for all three cars, Brian Pattie (No. 15), Scott Miller (No. 55) and Chad Johnston (No. 56), will be on probation until Dec. 31.

Since the actions occurred during the course of the race, the penalties were assessed based on the regular season, not on the Chase seeding. Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman had been tied for 12th position, with Truex Jr. holding the tiebreaker, but the 50-point deduction put Truex Jr. in 17th with 691 points, ceding the final Wild Card spot to Newman.

"We revert back to the end of the 26th race and apply our reaction to those results." said Helton.

Despite Clint Bowyer's spin bringing out a caution that benefited Truex Jr., Helton said there was no conclusive evidence that the spin was intentional. However, the radio instructions given to Vickers were conclusive.

"The preponderance of evidence," said Helton, "The most clear was the direction that the 55 driver was given and the confusion surrounding it was the most clear piece of what we found in looking through all the detail that led us to make the conclusion."

While Jeff Gordon's final points position was affected by MWR's efforts, Vice President Mike Helton   "We (NASCAR) react to what occurred, not to the ripple effect. I don't think we could reasonably do that."

Helton indicated that it was deep into the night Saturday and into Sunday morning that data was collected including timing and scoring, in-car footage and ESPN coverage. They also went over the data with members of the MWR organization before coming to a conclusion.

Stewart Haas Racing quickly responded to the decisions:

Tony Stewart said, “Obviously, we’re very pleased with NASCAR’s decision to provide Ryan Newman’s rightful place in this year’s Chase. NASCAR was put in a very difficult position Saturday night at Richmond and we commend the sanctioning body for taking the time to do the necessary due diligence to ensure that the right call was made.”

“I am proud that NASCAR took a stand with respect to what went on Saturday night at Richmond. I know it was a tough decision to make." said Ryan Newman. "With that being said, myself, Matt Borland (crew chief) and this entire No. 39 team are looking forward to competing for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.”

There is an appeals process, Helton acknowledged, and said that it's in the hands of Michael Waltrip Racing as to whether they take advantage of that process. Should MWR choose to avail themselves of that process, the only team member that would be affected would be Ty Norris, who would be allowed to be at the track pending the outcome of the appeal.

When asked about the rarity of the occurrence, Helton said, "We hope after today it's extremely rare.  We penalize to ask for it to not happen again.  It's not necessarily a penalty to take it out on somebody, as it's been presented in the past."

"It's a message from the league or the sanctioning body saying you can't do this and expect us not to react to it."

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