Monday evening NASCAR President Mike Helton met with the media at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., to discuss the penalties levied against Michael Waltrip Racing for actions during last weekend’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Int’l Raceway.
Below are select questions and answers from the event.
Question: Mike, one thing that kind of strikes out is the fact that Clint Bowyer, who appears to have been the issue that triggered this whole reason for doing this, as far as going into the Chase, seems to have no meaningful penalty. That seems to be kind of surprising, isn’t it?
HELTON: The reaction from NASCAR is to Michael Waltrip Racing, and every team in his organization that runs, in this case, the Sprint Cup Series.
I’ll have to leave it to you to decide if it’s surprising or not, but our reaction was specifically geared toward reacting to Michael Waltrip Racing collectively.
Cars spin out. We have cautions. There’s a lot of things that happen on the racetrack that people speculate about why it happened or how it happened. Sometimes there’s conclusive evidence. More often than not, though, you don’t know exactly what happened. But the collection of all the information we collected from Saturday night led us to the team-wide reaction as opposed to an individual car.
Question: Why is the particular mention of Jeff Gordon and how his race ended not mentioned in this?
HELTON: Well, because it’s typical for us to look at what occurred, and what react to what occurred. We don’t react to the ripple effect of an occurrence because I don’t think there’s any way we can reasonably do that. The 50 points across every Michael Waltrip team is — once the decision was made this afternoon, we revert back to the end of the Richmond race, and we take the points total from the 26th race of the 2013 season, apply our reaction, and then go forward. So we run the race, we had an occurrence in it that we reacted to, as usual we apply our reaction to those results, and then we take the next step. In this case it’s going from Richmond, applying our reaction, and then setting the Chase field.
Question: I just want to clarify a couple things. Essentially with what you were talking about with the spin with the 15 car with Clint, you basically said that you didn’t have conclusive evidence that he spun intentionally. You mentioned cars spin all the time; is that correct, that you don’t have conclusive evidence that that was an intentional spin; is that correct? Did I understand you?
HELTON: There’s not conclusive evidence that the 15 spin was intentional. There’s a lot of chatter, there’s the video that shows a car spinning, but we didn’t see anything conclusive that that was intentional.
Question: There were questions about the 55 and the 15 pitting, giving up position at the end of the race. Devil’s advocate can say sometimes that happens, so you kind of explained not being able to conclusively determine if one car spun in a possible normal situation or a little bit different situation but a situation where cars sometimes hit pit road at the end, how do you come to these type of penalties when I guess conclusively you’re not proving the car spun, and these are kind of normal — can be late race normal situations with cars pitting?
HELTON: Let me answer it and see if I get close to where you want the answer, or if I get close to your question.
The preponderance of things that happened by Michael Waltrip Racing Saturday night, the most clear was the direction that the 55 driver was given and the confusion around it, and then the conversation following that occurrence is the most clear part of that preponderance. Does that make sense? Does that help you? That’s the most clear piece of what we found through looking at all of the detail that led us to make the conclusion.
Question: So that was the smoking gun?
HELTON: That’s the most clear piece of evidence.
Question: A lot of people would say that the two victims kind of in all this were Newman and Gordon. Newman by circumstances of you penalizing MWR gets in. After that effect was there any sort of consideration of trying to figure out a way that you somehow could get Gordon in? Was that discussed, because here he seems to be a guy that was also a victim of what happened.
HELTON: The way we go about these is we look at the incident and only the incident because we know from experience that if you try to look at the ripple effect of an incident, you can’t cover all those bases. You can’t ever come up with a conclusion that is equitable and credible across the board. So we simply look at the incident and react to the incident, and whatever our reaction may create that has a ripple effect to it, as well, is what it is.
But our focus is around the incident and what we were going to do to react around it, not the ripple effect of the incident or the ripple effect of our reaction.