NASCAR is launching an investigation in to Clint Bowyer‘s controversial late-race spin at Richmond, which allowed his team-mate to gain the final spot in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
NASC AR officials always meet up to discuss race meetings on the following Monday or Tueday, but this week they shall discuss the spin on lap 394 at Richmond to see if Bowyer intentionally spun the #15 Michael Waltrip Racing machine.
At the time of the accident, it looked certain that Ryan Newman was going to win the race and knock Martin Truex, Jr., Bowyer’s team-mate at MWR, out of a wild-card entry to the Chase. Jeff Gordon was also in prime position to secure a spot in the top-10, which would have stopped Joey Logano from making the Chase. However, after the caution and final round of pit-stops, Logano and Truex both made it into the Chase, while Gordon and Newman missed out.
At the time of the incident NASCAR took no action against the driver of the #15, but later evidence – in-car radio and cameras – has prompted officials to take a second look at the incident.
“It’s natural when everything was as close as it was between who was going to get in and not go in to scratch your heads and try to figure out and wonder why,” NASCAR President Mike Helton told the Associated Press at Iowa Speedway for the Camping World Truck Series. “But we didn’t see anything initially on Saturday night that indicated that, but certainly we’ll go back through all the video and everything to be sure, because we take the responsibility very serious to be sure that it’s—that everybody has had a fair chance.”
While Bowyer denies that he intentionally spun, a conversation with his crew chief just moments before the spin has caused much discussion. His crew chief, Brian Pattie, informs Bowyer that “the 39 [Newman] is going to win the race”, followed by asking if his “arm is starting to hurt”. Following the question, an unidentified voice is heard to say “I bet it’s hot in there. Itch it.” Bowyer spun out at the very next corner.
“I think we had something going wrong,” Bowyer said. “The 88 [Dale Earnhardt Jr.] got up underneath of me. I had so much wheel by the time I got to the gas, he was underneath me. I spun out.”
However, Earnhardt, Jr. saw it differently. “He just spun right out,” said the Hendrick Motorsports driver. “That’s the craziest thing I ever saw. He just came right around. We were going into, through 3 and 4, and I don’t know if they can put up his brakes and his gas. He was hemming around on the brakes and jerking the car around, and then the thing just spun out. It was crazy. I don’t know what was going on.”
NASCAR released a statement on Sunday stating “NASCAR is reviewing Saturday night’s race at Richmond International Raceway per protocol and has no plans for further statement until that process is complete.”
While NASCAR may issue penalties, it remains highly unlikely that the Chase field will be altered.