What Punishment should Michael Waltrip Racing Face?
With 9 laps to go, Bowyer is heard being told that the 39 (Ryan Newman) is going to win. A Newman win would've knocked Truex Jr out of the final Wild Card spot. Two laps later, Bowyer is seen taking a slow spin as he for some reason jerks the steering wheel far to the left.
After pit stops, Ryan Newman fell to fifth, essentially ending any chance for a win and a guaranteed spot in the Chase. He would have to hope Joey Logano would re-enter the top 10 in points and out race Truex Jr. Truex Jr also needed Logano to re-enter the top 10 as well. Prior to the caution, Logano was stuck alone at 2 laps down, unable to move up. He took the wave around and was now only a lap down and able to gain points and pass Jeff Gordon back into the top 10.
Clint Bowyer was penalized for pitting before pit road opened, a normal thing for a recently wrecked car. The punishment for that is to go to the tail end of the field. However, he did a pass through penalty as the race went green, allowing him to go down a lap. Geoffrey Miller pointed out that Bowyer then crawled out of pit road allowing him to go down a second lap and putting him behind Joey Logano, handing Logano a point.
Brian Vickers was even more obvious and blatant. Jenna Fryer went through his audio and found a couple of gems. Vickers is told to pit as the race goes green and is in disbelief. Vickers is then told that they "need that one point." After pitting, Vickers is told he's owed a kiss. This gave Joey Logano a total of two points gifted to him from Michael Waltrip Racing, which put him into the top 10. Without these points, Logano is still outside the top 10 ending any chance for Truex Jr to get the final Wild Card spot.
To make matters worse, Michael Waltrip, owner of the team, made it clear team orders were made after the race on pit road telling Truex Jr that he's "got great teammates." Truex agreed.
Make no mistake - this is cheating. It absolutely robbed the sport of its integrity last night. This is point shaving in college basketball or Pete Rose betting on his team. It cannot go unpunished.
NASCAR can't just put Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon, the two drivers manipulated out of the Chase, into the 10 race playoff. Nobody can be sure the race would've actually gone green and neither would've had an issue. It can however, take Truex Jr and Bowyer out of contention and send a message to all teams that this will not be tolerated.
Its my belief the best way to do that is to dock Truex Jr and Bowyer 50 driver points each, and to dock Michael Waltrip Racing 50 owners points from each of their cars. This ends any chance of Michael Waltrip Racing taking any championship hardware this year. Brian Vickers is not running for points in Sprint Cup this year, so he should be suspended for the race at Chicago. Michael Waltrip Racing should also be banned from taking in any season ending prize money gained from being in the Chase. Michael Waltrip should be banned from any NASCAR activity, including visiting the team shop or making team decisions, for the rest of the calendar year. NASCAR should also make it clear that these are the minimum punishments if this ever happens again.
Not only would these punishments end any title hopes, it'd also make for some very awkward tense talks with team sponsors. Between the pressure of being essentially banned from title contention and sponsor pressure, it should send a chill to any team considering these kind of sport killing shenanigans again.
Update: Literally as I published this, NASCAR announced they are investigating the race.