NASCAR Still Investigating Logano, Gilliland As Chase Set To Begin
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series begins the Chase for the Cup this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway with the sanctioning body still "trying to sort out suspicious radio traffic" from last Saturday night's race at Richmond and its stars "seeking clarity on what qualifies as unlawful etiquette after an unfolding scandal that has rocked the sport," according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. Radio transmissions surfaced Wednesday from the channel of driver David Gilliland that "hinted at a deal with fellow Ford team Penske Racing that allowed Joey Logano to gain a spot in the closing laps" of Saturday's race. Logano "pleaded ignorance of the communication Thursday, but the Penske Racing driver also downplayed the controversy because he would have finished 10th in the standings if he hadn't gained a position on Gilliland." Ryan reports some fans "didn't seem to agree Thursday, as Logano drew a smattering of boos while virtually all Chase drivers, including brothers Kyle and Kurt Busch, roundly were applauded at a Q&A event." There also "was heckling" for Clint Bowyer, who denied spinning his car out intentionally during Saturday's event. When a question was asked of Bowyer about what people were expecting from him in the Chase, a fan yelled out, "To spin out!" Two Michael Waltrip Racing sponsors this week said that they were "re-evaluating investments with the team after NASCAR deemed it guilty of manipulation." Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. said of the penalties levied against MWR, "That was a heavy impact, and I think that sent shock waves through the sport. Once we get a little further past this and realize how big a deal that was for [Martin] Truex to be moved out, how big for his team, organization and sponsors. It's going to be profound. That's going to deter a lot of people from trying to manipulate a race going forward like that" (USA TODAY, 9/13). In Richmond, Billy Fellin writes under the header, "Black Cloud Hovers Over NASCAR" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 9/13).
CHANGING TIMES: In N.Y., Ben Strauss writes the "outrage has put NASCAR's unwritten rules on trial." Drivers have "long allowed teammates to pass them, or even take the lead for a number of laps, to earn points in the standings." But the "difference with the reaction to Saturday’s race appeared to be a combination of the stakes of the Chase, the overwhelming evidence and the fact that the outcome of the race was affected." Driver Ryan Newman said, “It’s been a part of our sport for a long time, but manipulating the race to change the outcome is an entirely different perspective, an entirely different situation." Driver Jimmie Johnson: “If you’re bold enough to make that direct an admission on the radio, then you’re going to pay the price" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/13). Earnhardt said of the scandal, "It's gotten a ton of traction. Sometimes as much as it's been a tough week on NASCAR and having to make some tough decisions, it's definitely got a lot of people paying attention to this race this weekend." But USA TODAY's Ryan wonders if it is "potentially a death knell for its credibility that needs to be addressed immediately." Ryan: "Might it actually be a positive as another compelling curiosity of a sport fueled figuratively and literally by its car-wreck appeal?" (USA TODAY, 9/13).