By Amanda Ebersole – With the penalties levied, Michael Waltrip Racing is now dealing with the aftermath of Clint Bowyer’s spin to earn Martin Truex Jr. a Chase berth.
Even with Bowyer’s 50 point penalty, he remains in the top 10 in points and the Chase reseed leaves him unaffected. It seems unjust however, his actions are the cause of the penalties. While I could argue that he was following team orders, he was the only one in the cockpit of that car. He could have claimed a radio issue and ignored the apparent pre-determined signal, ironically as Truex did a year ago when asked to help Toyota teammate Kyle Busch make the Chase. But in the end, Bowyer made his decision and now has to live with it. But it leaves some important questions.
Can MWR and more importantly Clint Bowyer put the drama behind them and contend for their first championship?
My short answer is no.
NASCAR is a sport that has 42 other drivers on the track each week. That is 42 other people who were affected by Bowyer’s actions and 42 chances at payback. While I don’t expect any of the former wild card contenders to blatantly wreck Bowyer or any of the MWR cars, I think their competitors are going to be less than forgiving with passing one another.
Innocent in the matter?
Perhaps the most innocent party in the MWR melodrama is Truex. Was he involved in the call for Bowyer to spin, I highly doubt that. That was a call made by general manager Ty Norris and perhaps team owner Michael Waltrip. In the Chase and then out, Truex is paying the price for a team decision whether that is fair or not.
Is Ty Norris a team scapegoat?
Michael Waltrip threw Norris under the bus and backed over him a few times over in the team issued press release.
“What occurred on the No. 55 radio at the end of Saturday night’s race in Richmond was a split-second decision made by team spotter Ty Norris to bring the No. 55 to pit lane and help a teammate earn a place in the Chase. We regret the decision and its impact. We apologize to NASCAR, our fellow competitors, partners and fans who were disappointed in our actions. We will learn from this and move on. As general manager, Ty Norris has been an integral part of Michael Waltrip Racing since its founding and has my and (co-owner) Rob Kauffman’s full support.
While this statement may be true in part, it just reflects the actions of the 55 team and not the 15 team. Something stinks and Ty Norris is being put out to pasture in what appears to be a team decision. If Norris did act on his own accord, then by all means, shame on him. We will never know the full answers but the puzzle seems to be missing a few pieces.
What about the sponsors?
The sponsors of any given team are what keep a car on track and running week in and week out. How will NAPA and Aaron’s feel about now being branded with a team that attempted to cheat their way to competing for a championship? I imagine that is not in their business model of how they envision their brand being represented.
Both sponsorships are secured for the long term but I would have to imagine that there is going to be lots of conference calls this week as far as how to handle this.
While the team has announced they will not appeal, this drama is far from over. The Chase has gotten off to an interesting start and the green flag hasn’t even dropped.