Jeff Gordon was added to the Chase for the Championship Friday afternoon after NASCAR determined Penske Racing and Front Row Motorsports may have worked together at the Richmond International Raceway last Saturday to get Joey Logano into the playoffs at Gordon’s expense.
The sanctioning body talked with both teams at the Chicagoland Speedway in preparation for Sunday’s Geico 400 and concluded Penske officials asked Front Row officials to let Logano pass David Gilliland in the closing laps to help Logano gain an extra point to qualify as a top-10-ranked driver.
Earlier this week NASCAR threw Martin Truex Jr. out of the Chase and added Ryan Newman after audio and video replays proved Michael Waltrip Racing manipulated the finish at Richmond when MWR’s Clint Bowyer spun out in the fourth turn with seven laps to go and when team president Ty Norris ordered Bowyer and Brian Vickers onto pit road to help Truex gain extra points.
Without that late caution, Newman likely would have qualified as a wild card and Gordon would have wrapped up the 10th – and final – spot in the top 10. But Logano finished in the top 10 and Truex earned the wild car during the shakeup that came with the final restart.
Gordon and car owner Rick Hendrick vehemently argued two different sets of circumstances kept him from competing for his fifth championship. Apparently NASCAR finally agreed.
“I applaud NASCAR for taking the time for a full review,” Hendrick said. “What occurred at Richmond was not of their making, and they’ve had to wrestle with some very difficult decisions throughout the week. I know everything done by NASCAR has been a sincere effort to be fair and ultimately do what’s best for our sport and our fans.”
France and NASCAR president Mike Helton also said they will meet with drivers and car owners Saturday to address “the integrity” of the sport.
“We’ll clarify a lot of this after we’ve addressed the teams and got their input and concluded what happens next,” Helton said. “But we’ve had moments in the sport where NASCAR reacting to what has evolved on the racetrack and through the teams’ actions, and we make a decision that shifts that paradigm, so to speak, and that’s what’s happened this week in part”
Once NASCAR completed its investigation Friday, France said adding Gordon was the only fair thing to do.
“What we’re talking about here is a set of extraordinary circumstances in multiple ways with multiple drivers and multiple teams that impacted the race,” he said. “And the only way to address it, we believe, is the way we have, punishing the teams [with probation] that participated in that in some form or fashion, and trying to see if there was a way to, in this case, make Jeff Gordon have an opportunity to race for a championship, which we believe he deserves that in an effort of a fair playing field.
“There were just too many things that went on [last] Saturday night that gave a clear disadvantage and we deemed unfair to the 24 [Gordon] that we needed to address that.”
While Penske Racing and Front Row Motorsports were placed on probation for the rest of the season, Logano will be allowed to stay in the playoff race. That means there will be 13 drivers in the 10-race battle for the championship.