Jeff Gordon added to Chase as NASCAR expands field to 13
BY TINA AKOURIS Sun-Times Media September 13, 2013 10:06PM
Jeff Gordon autograph for fans during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Geico 400 auto race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Friday, Sept. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Updated: October 15, 2013 7:32AM
In one of the most unprecedented moves in NASCAR’s history, Jeff Gordon has been added to the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship as the 13th driver, and two more race teams face sanctions by the sport’s governing body.
NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian France and president Mike Helton made the announcement Friday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet. France and Helton said NASCAR put Penske Racing and Front Row Motorsports on probation until Dec. 31 for actions detrimental to the sport.
“Due to the totality of events that were outside of Jeff Gordon’s [control], we’re going to add a 13th position to the [Chase] field,” France said. “There were too many things that altered the [Richmond race on Sept. 7] and gave an unfair disadvantage to Jeff and his team.”
Helton said there will be a mandatory meeting Saturday for all drivers, crew chiefs and owners to discuss what lines were crossed this past week.
“I’m excited about that meeting and we’re going to get reprimanded,” Gordon said. “There are circumstances where a teammate tries to help out and race a guy hard or move over for someone. That’s been standard practice, but there’s more on the line now and more money and more competition that is driving the sport.
Gordon said he has helped teammates in the past, but that he never crossed the line — and then referenced intentionally causing a wreck to get a caution.
The top 10 drivers in the Sprint Cup point standings and two wild-card drivers make the Chase — 12 total. The first race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship is the GEICO 400 on Sunday in Joliet.
NASCAR’s brass put Front Row and Penske on probation after investigating radio chatter between the teams for Penske driver Joey Logano and the crew from Furniture Row driver Dave Gilliland during Richmond. The radio communication implies that Gilliland’s team was willing to help Logano gain track position, thereby increasing Logano’s chances of making the Chase.
Logano did end up making the Chase and he also won the pole for the Geico 400. Penske teammate Brad Keselowski will start second and Juan Pablo Montoya third.
The announcement ends a frenetic week for NASCAR and nearly all the Chase drivers. After the race in Richmond, NASCAR determined that Michael Waltrip Racing manipulated the outcome so MWR driver Martin Truex Jr. would qualify for the Chase.
MWR was fined $300,000 — the largest in NASCAR history — and all three of the team’s drivers (Truex, Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers) were docked 50 points each. That lowered Truex’s point total and pushed him out of the Chase and moved Ryan Newman up into the wild card spot as the 12th and final driver.
Gordon argued that he was affected by MWR’s manipulation, too, and that he deserved a spot in the Chase.
“When I saw that stuff with [Logano and Gilliland], I had new hope,” Gordon said. “[Truex] raced hard and the guy didn’t do anything wrong.”
NOTE: Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Truck Series race Friday night at Chicagoland Speedway. Brad Keselowski was second.