NASCAR got it right by adding Jeff Gordon to the 2013 Chase Friday afternoon.
And so caps the craziest week in NASCAR history, in which Gordon and Ryan Newman were added to the Chase, and Martin Truex Jr. was bounced after the nefarious actions of Michael Waltrip Racing at Richmond International Speedway last weekend.
“Due to the totality of the events that were outside of Jeff Gordon's issues, we're going to add a 13th position to the field and Jeff Gordon will qualify for the Sprint Cup championship this year," NASCAR CEO Brian France said at a surprise press conference at Chicagoland Speedway Friday. "There were too many things that altered the event and gave an unfair disadvantage to Jeff and his team.”
This is unprecedented _ and in some ways viewed insane by others _ but NASCAR got it right by adding Gordon as the 13th driver in the Chase.
“Think this is the first time I could actually hear the excitement in all of your tweets not just read them. Thank you all! #Team24” Gordon tweeted Friday afternoon.
NASCAR got it right because ,in fact, Gordon got a double-whammy at Richmond.
The late-race shenanigans by MWR moved Joey Logano one point ahead of him for 10th place in the standings, which gives a driver an automatic berth.
Because Brian Vickers pitted on the final restart, Logano was able to move past him for track position. Coupled with moving past Clint Bowyer after his “accidental” spin, Logano gained two critical points and to move ahead of Gordon for Chase qualifying.
More controversy ensued just days later when NASCAR began investigating communications between the teams of Logano and David Gilliland, adding strong suspicion that they were conspiring to help Joey Logano, a driver for Penske Racing. Although Gilliland is not on the same team, he shares the same manufacturer (Ford) as Logano.
Radio communication sounds like Gilliland was asked to give up his track position to let Logano pass him in the final laps.
Gordon’s inclusion will be applauded by many and maybe jeered by just as many people. But give NASCAR credit for doing the right thing under crazy circumstances.
Changes are definitely going to come next season in terms of in-race communication and what are allowable limits _ if any _ of teammates helping each other out.
But that’s a story for another day.
Right now, it’s time to commend NASCAR for getting it right.
Jeff Gordon belongs in the Chase.George Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @georgediaz