NASCAR did the right thing putting Jeff Gordon in the 10-race chase for the championship, but they should have taken the extra step and kicked out Joey Logano.
NASCAR certainly has had everyone talking about the start of this year's 10-race chase for the championship after the events last weekend at Richmond. Clint Bowyer appeared to spin out on purpose to give his teammate, Martin Truex Jr., a better shot at making it in to the 10-driver chase, or at least picking up one of the two wild card spots, and teammate Brian Vickers was told to pit late in order to drop his position behind Truex and further help Truex. Bowyer also made a late stop to help Truex.
NASCAR responded swiftly by docking all three 50 points each and fining Michael Waltrip Racing a record $300,000 for trying to manipulate the outcome of the race. The points were deducted before the chase field was set, so that dropped Truex out and put in Ryan Newman, who had been leading the race when Bowyer did his solo spin.
If that was the end of the story, Gordon would not have a strong case to be included in the chase, but it isn't. Apparently NASCAR has also reviewed radio communication indicating that Logano's team haggled with David Gilliland's team to get Gilliland to give up a position to Logano as a way to help Logano get in the chase.
Gordon and Logano were fighting for a spot, which Gordon ultimately lost due to a combination of Bowyer's spin and, apparently, the horse-trading that went on between Logano's team and Gilliland.
By all rights, Logano should also be penalized, which would put him out of the chase and Gordon in.
If Gordon had run better during the season he would have been securely in the chase and wouldn't be caught in the middle of this mess. But remember Tony Stewart in 2011? He struggled so much that he said his team didn't deserve to be in the chase, then he won five times in the chase's 10 races and claimed the championship after going all season without a win.
So anything can happen once you are in the chase. Gordon may just do what Stewart did two years ago.
All sports struggle at times with players or coaches trying to manipulate the results. Points shaving scandals have been well-documented in most professional sports where betting is taking place. But motorsports has had a problem with teams helping each other out ever since the first multi-car operation, and in NASCAR, officials have done little more than give a wink and turn a blind eye to the teams and drivers involved.
In NASCAR, teams would routinely help out teammates or manufacturer teams by pushing each other back to the pits when they ran out of gas. In fact, the long-standing rule in NASCAR was always that you could push your teammates all you want up until the last lap. You just couldn't push someone across the finish line.
And in the era before 2003 when drivers used to race back to the flag after there was an accident on the track, it was not uncommon to see the leader slow up so their teammates could pass them to get a lap back.
Even today, a driver leading the race is apt to slow and let a teammate by so that the teammate can lead a lap, because you get an extra point for leading a lap and, as they say, every point counts when you are trying to make it into the chase.
So prior to NASCAR putting Gordon in the chase, what the sanctioning body was saying was it is OK to let someone by you to get a point for leading and it is OK for teams to trade favors (as in Logano-Gilliland) so one driver can gain points, but it isn't OK for Vickers and Bowyer to pit and give up positions to help their teammate.
Something seemed wrong there.
NASCAR says there is no way to know for sure if Bowyer's spin was intentional, and that is probably the case. But the potential to damage cars and possibly injure someone is far greater in doing that then in some of these other antics that routinely go on. Bowyer deserves a bigger penalty.
But even taking that out of the equation, if Vickers and Bowyer are penalized for giving up positions, but Gilliland and Logano aren't, what message is that sending to competitors?
Gordon has every right to be to in the chase given the actions NASCAR too, against the other drivers. I never was a Gordon fan, but right is right. It's good that NASCAR took the extra-ordinary step of expanding the chase field to include him.