NASCAR controversy: NASCAR levies penalties, Bowyer apologizes for spinout

NASCAR launched an investigation after Saturday night's race, determining Monday that MWR manipulated the outcome. The penalty: fines, suspensions, and rewriting the NASCAR winners' list.

Steve Helber/AP
Clint Bowyer gets sideways on the front stretch during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va., Sept. 7. His reputation has been battered and his team blasted by NASCAR for manipulating the outcome of a pivotal race.

Clint Bowyer feels awful for costing Ryan Newman a win, though his apology for spinning at Richmond is not an admission of guilt.

Ryan Newman also feels terrible. Only his sympathy is for Martin Truex Jr., the unwitting participant in a botched race-fixing attempt by Michael Waltrip Racing that has put two friends in an awkward position and spoiled the start of NASCAR's championship race.

"I feel bad for Martin, and I feel he didn't know anything about it and he had the carpet ripped out from underneath him," Newman told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "And I know exactly how that feels."

It's been a roller-coaster for NASCAR since there were seven laps to go in Saturday night's race at Richmond. Newman was on his way to a victory that would have given him the final spot in the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field. Then Bowyer spun to bring out a caution, setting in motion a chain of events that cost Newman the win and the Chase berth, cost Jeff Gordon a Chase berth and put Truex and Joey Logano in the final two spots.

There were way too many questions about the final moments of the race and NASCAR launched an investigation, determining Monday that MWR had manipulated the outcome of the race and levying unprecedented sanctions that put Newman in the Chase and bumped Truex out. MWR was also fined $300,000, general manager Ty Norris was suspended indefinitely, Bowyer, Truex, and Brian Vickers were docked 50 points each, and their crew chiefs were placed on probation through the end of the year.

Bowyer, previously scheduled to spend the day at ESPN, denied the spin was deliberate. In his first interview, he said he had apologized to Newman in a phone call for bringing out a caution while Newman was leading, but said it was racer protocol for costing Newman a win.

Asked specifically if the apology was an admission of guilt, Bowyer said: "Let's not dig too much into this."

The topic was covered again in a second appearance, and Bowyer denied deliberately spinning.

"No," he said. "Anytime something happens on the race track, it's unfortunate. If I had a crystal ball and could have told you everything lined up just perfectly the way it did, there's no way you could do all that math and know everything that happened."

Bowyer also revealed he had poison oak all over his arm from cutting a tree down last week when asked about his team allegedly talking in code during the race. His crew chief had inquired about his arm right before he spun, at one point saying, "I bet it's hot in there. Itch it."

NASCAR said they could not prove Bowyer's spin was intentional.

Newman said he accepted Bowyer's apology and the two will move on — they have a previously scheduled hunting trip together next week. But while Bowyer discussed the spin in Monday night's phone call, Newman told AP. Bowyer never said it was intentional.

"I could tell by the sound of his voice, I really feel he was genuine with his remorse," Newman said. "He said it was a heat of the moment thing, and he told me the biggest thing was he was glad NASCAR did what they did and took the action they did to get me in the Chase. I believed him and that made me feel good about what he was saying. But, no, he did not say with the exact words that he spun on purpose."

Still, Newman said he has no doubt that MWR manipulated the ending of the race through a series of different actions that only began with the Bowyer spin. NASCAR could only prove one action — radio communication between Norris and Vickers in which a confused Vickers was told to pit as the field went green with three laps to go. The call was an effort to give Joey Logano position on the track to pass Jeff Gordon in the standings and knock Gordon out of the Chase so that Truex could gain the wild card.

Newman had been leading at the time of Bowyer's spin with seven laps to go, and the victory would have given him the wild-card berth. He lost the race and the final spot in the Chase.

"That no doubt was the toughest thing in my career, having the carpet pulled out from underneath me," Newman said. "To have that manipulated, and after the race, I didn't put two-and-two together, I didn't immediately think it was on purpose. Obviously, Clint has a lot of remorse now."

Newman, however, feels awful for good friend Truex, who has not spoken publicly since Saturday's race.

When it was Truex who ended up advancing into the Chase, Newman said he found his friend after the race and told him, "Now go do something with it." Having now swapped places with his buddy because of unprecedented NASCAR sanctions to correct the bizarre race-fixing attempt, Newman said Truex has given him the same advice.

"I know that it's tough for him because of his team situation," Newman said. "I want to go out and do the best I can in the Chase and do the best I can for my team, but at the same time, I'm disappointed my buddy isn't part of it and I'm disappointed at what he's going through right now."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.