5 Years Ago Today Michael Waltrip Racing/Clint Bowyer Fixed The Richmond Regular Season Finale

Five years ago this weekend Michael Waltrip Racing fixed the regular season finale at Richmond and ultimately signed the death certificate for MWR. Spingate brought the topic of team orders tot he forefront of NASCAR.
In the closing laps of the Federated Auto Parts 400 as Ryan Newman was leading and looked like a lock to secure a spot in the Chase for the championship MWR activated their plan. On lap 393 Clint Bowyer spun his #15 car bringing out a caution. Under that caution the leaders pitted and Newman went from the lead to 4th.
Bowyer’s teammate Martin Truex Jr. who was desperately trying to get into the Chase gained multiple spots on the pit sequence thanks to his teammate’s timely caution. As Carl Edwards went on to win the race Truex and Newman finished tied for the last Chase spot on points and wins. Truex had more second-place finishes however and he was the driver in the Chase.

Clint Bowyer’s Involvement

MWR had this plan in place before the race even started. A code word or phrase was implemented in case the team needed to shuffle the running order of their cars around.

In the waning laps, Bowyer’s Spotter Brett Griffin was keeping him updated on the running order, where Truex was and what the points situation was. “39, is gonna win the race….. well that kinda sucks, 9 more right here,” said Griffin.

Bowyer’s Crew Chief Brian Pattie chimed in immediately after Griffin stopped talking. “Is your arm starting to hurt? I bet it’s hot in there. Itch it” said a defiant Pattie.

Bowyer responded with “Oh, yeah” and then jerked his car around before spinning in turn 4 and bringing the caution out.

With three laps to go Bowyer was told to follow the pace car down pit road. A furious Bowyer responded with “god damn we didn’t need to finish last” and that was the first clear indicator MWR had a plan in place and were trying to execute it.
MWR needed Bowyer to ensure Logano did not get the second wildcard spot but that wasn’t enough. They needed more help and turned to the team’s third car, the #55 of Brian Vickers.

Brian Vickers Involvement

As the field headed back to the green Vickers was told to pit like Bowyer was. Except Vickers didn’t seem to be in on the plan like Bowyer and the rest of the team were.

Norris: We’re probably going to pit here on green. We gotta pit.
Vickers: You talking to me? We got to pit?
Norris: Yeah, we’re gonna pit. We’re gonna pit.
Vickers: I’ve got to what? I don’t understand. Pit right now?
** Race Goes Back To Green**
Norris: We’ve got to pit this time. We need that one point.
Vickers: 10-4. So I got a tire going down?
Norris: Yes
(Pits with one lap to go)
Norris: Guys, look at it. Get a look at it.
**After the checkered flag**
Vickers: Did Martin make it?
Norris: I’ll see you after the race, Brian. I owe you a kiss.

Brian Vickers seemingly not knowing the plan was the real smoking gun that tipped everyone in NASCAR off to the fact something was not kosher with this situation. MWR President Ty Norris only further indicted himself by playing along with Brian’s clueless questions. In typical MWR fashion, this was done very shoddily and no one had a damn clue what was going on.

Penske/Front Row Racing’s Involvement

For some reason unbeknownst to anyone NASCAR said they couldn’t find definitive evidence, these two teams colluded to manipulate the end of the race. Maybe it’s because the MWR portion of spingate was so blatant but Penske/FRR are just as guilty.

Penske asked FRR to give up David Gilliland’s position in order to solidify Joey Logano’s spot in the playoff. There is PLENTY of evidence of this occurrence.

Post Race

At the end of the race, both Logano and Truex were in the chase. The plans their teams laid out worked but many people had questions and Clint Bowyer had to answer those on pit road immediately after the race. Bowyer completely unprepared for the questions Jamie Little asked him stuttered his way through it and contributed his spin to a flat tire.

Dalae Jr. who was behind Bowyer at the time of his spin said Bowyer was jerking is car all around until he spun out. “Craziest thing I ever saw,” said a confident Dale Jr. Even he knew something was up.

The Penalties

NASCAR said they couldn’t definitively say Bowyer spun on purpose. (We know he did). However, the Vickers radio transmissions were enough to convict MWR in the court of NASCAR. The penalty?

  • MWR was fined $300,000
  • Ty Norris suspended indefinitely
  • All three MWR drivers were docked 50 points

Because of that point penalty, Truex was bumped out of the chase and Ryan Newman was reinstated. Because of the weird circumstances surrounding the finale, Jeff Gordon was added as the 13th chase driver. The 4-time champ missed the chase by 1 point thanks to Penske’s manipulation of the finish with Front Row. NASCAR decided to award Gordon a spot.

The Aftermath

MWR would lose Truex’s sponsor Napa Auto Parts because of their participation in spingate. In 2014 MWR was forced to reduce to a 2-car team because of the loss of Napa. Truex would leave the team and following the 2015 season MWR would close their doors.

NASCAR created the 100% rule in which all drivers have to compete at 100% every lap of the race.

Desperate people do desperate things. Everyone involved should be thankful NASCAR didn’t take the F1 approach to spingate.

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