The fallout from the scandalous behavior by Michael Waltrip Racing, as well as NASCAR’s reaction, has rocked NASCAR.
NAPA voided its contract with MWR after that team was suspected of manipulating the outcome with an intentional spin by Clint Bowyer and the documented coercion by the team to change the outcome of the Sept. 7 race at the Richmond International Raceway. Another sponsor, 5-Hour Energy, said it will decide at the end of the season whether it will remain in NASCAR.
While NAPA said it was leaving because it believed in “fair play,” 5-Hour Energy president Scott Henderson seemed to suggest to The Associated Press Sunday he was equally concerned with the way NASCAR doles out its punishments.
Officially, Martin Truex Jr. was knocked out of the Chase for the Championship after NASCAR listened to radio traffic between MWR president Ty Norris and two of his drivers, Bowyer and Brian Vickers. Norris told both of them to pit on the final lap to help Truex move up in the running order to help him qualify for the playoffs.
Not only was Truex kicked out of the playoffs, the team was fined $300,000.
A few days later, NASCAR added Jeff Gordon to the Chase after there was similar radio traffic between David Gilliland’s Front Row Motorsports and Joey Logano’s Penske Racing. But unlike Truex, Logano was allowed to stay in the Chase and both Front Row and Penske weren’t fined.
“There’s a lot of talk about integrity," Henderson said. “When the guy [NASCAR chairman Brian France] who’s in charge can say, ‘I can do whatever I want and I’m going to do it, and I just did,’ I wonder about integrity. I want to make sure we can win in this sport, OK?”
The loss of one sponsor and the possible loss of another – as well as the negative connotations – has everyone concerned.
“I think that a sponsor leaving probably is certainly bigger than those penalties,” Jeff Gordon said. “I think that was a very loud message that was sent to MWR as well as everyone in this sport. About what our expectations are and our actions what they can result in if they are negative actions. I mean that is unfortunate. You know you see a team go through some decisions that they went through and choices and you want a team to get penalized for those types of things no matter what team it is.”
Jimmie Johnson agreed.
“Clearly there’s been a lot of things flushed out and discussed over the last couple of weeks,” he said. “And the sponsor stood up and said hey, this is where we stand.”
Night time not the right time at Texas Motor Speedway
Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage prides himself in being different. He did everything to prove that again by moving next year’s Texas 500 back to a daytime start.
At a time when many tracks are trying to move to prime time, Gossage said the NCAA Final Four prompted him to move next year’s April race will move an afternoon start on Sunday instead of a Saturday night race.
That means the race on April 6 won’t go against the tournament at nearby Cowboys Stadium since semifinal games are played on Saturday and the national championship is on Monday.
Next year’s race also will mark the debut of the world’s largest HD video board television. At 20,666.64 square feet, the 218 feet wide, 94∏ feet tall screen will surpass the 16,000-square-foot screen at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In 2009, Guinness Book of World Records said Cowboys Stadium in nearby Arlington, Tex., has the largest HD video television screen at 11,520 square feet.