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Points Manipulations, Restart Controversies Latest NASCAR Melodramas

CHARLOTTE, NC (September 9, 2013) – The bluster about alleged ‘point shaving’ by Michael Walrtip Racing is going to be a hot topic this week as NASCAR reviews the team’s actions in the closing laps of Saturday’s Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway.

Allegedly, MWR drivers Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers intentionally caused cautions and surrendered positions so their teammate – Martin Truex, Jr. – would qualify for NASCAR’s 2013 Chase ‘playoff’ series.

The moves worked, Truex got in. Others did not.

A post-race review of MWR team radio transmissions seems to support the allegations. It’s pretty clear – MWR did manipulate the results.

What they didn’t do is break the rules. And they’re not the first ones to do it.

This kind of point manipulating has been going on in NASCAR for a long time. It started way before ‘team racing’ when drivers friendly to each other would give up a position late in the race. If you were a backyard – or NASCAR ‘independent ‘team back then – moving over to give a ‘factory team’ a spot could mean an extra set of tires or maybe a used engine down the road.

Happened all the time.

In the 1990’s, I was personally with a team that finished second in a NASCAR championship thanks to another Chevy team all but stopping on the back straight on the final lap to give us a position. Those three points gave us second – by one point – in the title chase over the Ford team in third.

Today in a multi-car team driven sport means teams manage points all the time. Think about it – how many times have you seen someone pull over and allow their teammate to collect bonus points for leading a lap?

Happens all the time. For decades.

I could give you more examples, but you get the picture. The manipulation of points happens all the time in NASCAR. The fact is no one inside the garage area – including NASCAR – was surprised that MWR was playing the numbers game Saturday night. The truth is every team with a chance to make the Chase was running the same numbers for their chances.

The difference was MWR was bold enough to play theirs.

That won’t earn them any points in the garage. MWR didn’t break any rules – unless NASCAR wants to hit them with their all-inclusive escape clause of ‘actions detrimental to stock car racing.’ It’s more like MWR broke the ‘code’ – an understanding of the spirit of competition rules among those in the garage area.

Fair enough.

Those in the garage will work that out internally over the next 10 races. There will definitely be some paybacks. That’s always been a part of the sport too.

Meanwhile, NASCAR says it’s going to review the MWR situation. Of course they are. They’ve got a big public relations problem on their hands because the fans have heard the same MWR team audio. Until Saturday, most fan didn’t know or ignored that these kinds of shenanigans – and those described above – existed.

Call it innocence – or naivet

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John Close
John Close covered his first NASCAR race in 1986 at Bristol. Since then, Close - a former Associated Press newspaper sports editor - has written countless articles for numerous motorsports magazines, trade publications and Internet sites. His Close Calls column appears each week on www.CloseFinishes.com, www.MotorsportsAmerica.com and www.RacingNation.com. Close has also authored two books - Tony Stewart - From Indy Phenom To NASCAR Superstar and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series - From Desert Dust To Superspeedways. Close is a weekly guest every Thursday at 1 p.m. Eastern on Tradin' Paint on NASCAR SIRIUS Channel 90. You can follow John Close on Twitter @CloseFinishes and on Facebook at John Close. Be sure to visit John's website - www.closefinishes.com