Jeff Gordon will get to compete in NASCAR’s “Chase for the Championship” after all as the four-time Cup champion was added to The Chase by NASCAR officials late Friday at Chicagoland Speedway.
The addition of the four-time Brickyard 400 winner and four-time NASCAR Cup champion increases the Chase field to an unprecedented 13 drivers. Gordon was added to the field when NASCAR officials determined Penske Racing and Front Row Motorsports were involved in an attempt to manipulate the outcome of last Saturday night’s race at Richmond Int’l Raceway.
Essentially, Penske Racing tried to cut a deal with Front Row Motorsports that ordered driver David Gilliland not to pass Joey Logano. According to radio transmissions, Penske Racing “would take care of” Gilliland for cooperating.
It was the second scandal that developed out of the final “regular season” race at Richmond. NASCAR officials determined Michael Waltrip Racing had manipulated the final Chase position by having Brian Vickers pit once the race went back to green flag racing with only three laps to go. That allowed MWR teammate Martin Truex, Jr. to finish in a tie with 2013 Brickyard winner Ryan Newman for the final Wild Card position in the race. Truex would originally get the Wild Card based on tiebreaker (one second-place finish to none for Newman) and that left Newman out of the Chase.
When NASCAR officials reviewed the radio communication between MWR General Manager Ty Norris and Vickers it concluded the “fix was in” and acted swiftly and decisively last Monday night, docking all three MWR drivers 70 points which knocked Truex out of the Wild Card back to 17th in the standings. That reinstated Newman to the final Wild Card position.
Norris was also suspended indefinitely and Michael Waltrip Racing was fined $300,000.
Another MWR driver, Clint Bowyer, spun out by himself to bring out the final caution of the Richmond race but NASCAR was unable to definitively determine that the spin was intentional to keep Newman from winning the race.
As for Gordon, he would have earned a Chase position by finishing 10th in the standings but ultimately finished one point behind Penske driver Logano for that position. When NASCAR officials determined Penske Racing and Front Row attempted to prevent Gilliland from passing Logano, they made the unprecedented decision to add Gordon as a third Wild Card entry.
“Oh, it’s been a roller coaster ride this week and an unusual set of circumstances,” Gordon said after qualifying sixth on Friday for Sunday’s Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. “I’ve never been a part of anything like this before. But for my team and my fans that that have been overwhelming supportive this week, for the tough decisions that NASCAR has to make, and for Drive to End Hunger, I’m extremely happy about this. We’re proud to be in it, and now an incredible set of opportunities lie on our shoulders to go out there and show that we belong in this Chase.”