Throwback Thursday: Clint Bowyer’s infamous Richmond ‘itch’

It was the most infamous itch in NASCAR history.

Clint Bowyer was in the closing laps of the night race at Richmond International Raceway last September when a voice came on his radio, telling him Ryan Newman was going to win.

Shortly thereafter, Brian Pattie, Bowyer’s crew chief at Michael Waltrip Racing, keyed the mic on his radio.

"Is your arm starting to hurt?" Pattie asked. And then Pattie said, "I bet it’s hot in there. Itch it."

Seconds later, Bowyer’s car spun, bringing out a caution.

Newman was leading the race at the time and battling Bowyer’s MWR teammate Martin Truex Jr. for the final spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But a slow pit stop cost Newman the lead.

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When the track went green, MWR general manager ordered Brian Vickers to pit, saying "I’ll see you after the race, Brian, I owe you a kiss."

Bowyer, meanwhile, made three pit stops after his spin, including one under green.

Carl Edwards went on to win the race, Truex came home seventh and appeared to sew up the final Chase berth, keeping both Newman and Jeff Gordon out of the Chase.

Or so it appeared.

Two nights after the race, NASCAR took the unusual step of heavily penalizing MWR, with a fine of $300,000, a loss of 50 points for each of the team’s three cars and an indefinite suspension for Norris.

NASCAR concluded that MWR has tried to alter the finishing order of the race in order to get Truex in the Chase.

The penalties were harsh.

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The points fine knocked Truex out of the Chase and put Newman back in. Four days later, NASCAR took the unprecedented step of putting Gordon in, too, expanding the Chase field to 13 cars.

For MWR, the consequences of trying to fix the outcome of the race were devastating and far reaching. NAPA, who had sponsored Waltrip has a driver more than a decade earlier and stuck with him through thick and thin, severed its relationship with MWR.

That, in turn, caused the team to cut back to two cars, with Truex moving to Furniture Row Racing for 2014. Truex is winless so far this season, a disappointing 25th in points.

The irony of all this is that while Bowyer and Vickers were involved in trying to alter the outcome of the race, Truex wasn’t, yet in the end, he paid the highest price in his career.

"I had no idea," Truex said after the race ended. "I raced my ass off all night long. That’s all I can do."

Bowyer is still with MWR, but is unlikely to make the Chase this year. The only way his teammate Vickers can get in is with a victory in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Ditto for Truex, now with Furniture Row.

Odds are not good for any of three making the big dance this year.

But you better believe, all parties involved will be thinking about last year when they roll into Richmond this time around.