Bob Pockrass, Sportingnews.com
Gordon appreciative, Truex livid as NASCAR adjusts Chase field
JOLIET, Ill. – Jeff Gordon felt appreciative. Martin Truex Jr. on the other hand was livid. Joey Logano? Vindicated.
In one of the most dramatic days of the season, NASCAR finally put a close on a race that had ended six nights earlier when it decided to take the extraordinary step of putting Gordon into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
It was the second time in five days where NASCAR changed the Chase field in light of information that either proved that a team manipulated the finish or at least made that attempt Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.
On Monday, it knocked Truex out of the Chase and put Ryan Newman in because of the actions of Michael Waltrip Racing. Then mid-afternoon Friday at Chicagoland Speedway, NASCAR chairman Brian France said he was increasing the Chase field to add Gordon because he believed Gordon faced an unfair disadvantage resulting from MWR actions as well as the talk of a deal between Front Row Motorsports driver David Gilliland and Logano to help Logano get into the Chase.
Driver reactions were mixed depending at least in part of who benefited.
"There was a lot of ups and downs of emotions for this entire team this week," Gordon said after qualifying Friday at Chicagoland Speedway. "They've been through a lot. … I'm very appreciative, very thankful to be in. I know it's under the most unbelievable circumstances I've ever been part of in my racing career.
"I wish that we could have just raced for it on Saturday night but that wasn't the case."
Truex, who benefited from a spin by MWR teammate Clint Bowyer and the pitting of Brian Vickers at Richmond, still is out of the Chase. Truex still has a 50-point penalty, and the team is reeling from a record $300,000 fine and the indefinite suspension of general manager Ty Norris for those violations.
"I'm not even sure what to say at this point to be honest with you," Truex said. "I'm kind of at a loss for words. How they make a spot for somebody? They kick me out to make spot for somebody and then they don't do the same for the other guys. It's just unfair, and nothing I can do about it."
Gordon indicated that Truex was somewhat justified as he didn't know what his teammates were doing to help him but believes Bowyer's spin was intentional and manipulated the race.
"The guy didn't do anything wrong," Gordon said. "For that, I felt bad for him. But we didn't get to see the race play out. We don't know what the results were going to be because of the circumstances of that spin changed everything.
"That, to me, is the only reason I'm accepting being in the 13th (spot) because under normal circumstances I would say, 'No, that's not right.'"
At least one other driver felt that for Gordon to get in, another should come out.
"Of course I'm very happy that Jeff is in the Chase," said Jimmie Johnson, the five-time Cup champion and Gordon teammate. "In my opinion though I believe there should be 12 cars. One in one out should be the deal. It's not, but there are a lot of things to consider and look at.
"It's been an interesting week to say the least."
Newman was among the drivers who questioned the decision in light that Logano's team already was on probation. Both Penske Racing and Front Row Motorsports were put on organizational probation for the rest of the season.
"There's a police call, there's a parole call, there's a probation call, there's a sentencing call that all needs to be defined," Newman said. "There sure has been a lot of probation going on, and there doesn't seem to be any penalty for having multiple probations right now."
Logano said he was never nervous his team would receive a penalty. The only radio chatter was on Gilliland's channel, and NASCAR ruled that it didn't believe Gilliland's team actually received something—NASCAR said it was just talk—for Gilliland to lose spots to him.
"There wasn't any worry in my mind that we weren't going to be in the Chase," said Logano, who won the pole for the Chase-opening race Sunday. "I felt like we deserved to be here."
NASCAR did not give the team's any notice of the decision and the Hendrick teams learned while watching on television.
"I was probably just as surprised as anybody that anything happened because it was so far into the week and here we are at the racetrack," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "It's really extraordinary and unprecedented was the words that they used and it's definitely that.
"I don't know what is fair anymore. You could have done it a million different ways and I don't know that one is better than the other. … The whole thing is a mess. Putting Jeff in is somewhat redemption for him."
NASCAR will meet with the drivers Saturday afternoon to give them new guidelines on what is acceptable as far as helping teammates. Several drivers hope that they get a chance to speak at the meeting as they try to discuss not only what the new rules will be but also how NASCAR plans to police those rules.
"As drivers, we should have a say in how things happen with respect to what goes on the racetrack," Newman said. "They have to worry about getting people in the grandstands and making sure that it's a fair show."