Gilliland, Logano teams investigated
FOX Sports has exclusively learned of team radio communication with David Gilliland during Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway that allegedly asks the driver to intentionally give up a position to help Joey Logano cement a berth in the Chase for Sprint Cup.
Logano earned the 10th and final spot locked in on points, ahead of the two wild-card berths. NASCAR released a statement Thursday saying they are "continuing to gather all the facts from last Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event" and they "will have no further comment until all the facts have been examined."
The radio communication from the No. 38 team reveals that a voice on the radio, believed to be Gilliland crew chief Frank Kerr, tells the spotter to tell Logano's spotter that the track position "better pay big."
"The committee knows what I've been asking for," Kerr says.
"We've got the big dog and all his cronies," the spotter replies.
Kerr then says: "Travis knows what I've been asking for," an apparent reference to Penske Racing competition director Travis Geisler.
A short time later, Logano passed Gilliland on a restart and finished 22nd -- one spot ahead of Gilliland and good enough for a berth in the Chase field.
"Good job, good job, man," the spotter says. "Hopefully we'll get something out of that."
Wednesday afternoon, the sanctioning body issued a statement on the issue:
"NASCAR is aware of reports about the No. 22 and No. 38 radio communications at Richmond International Raceway and is looking into it, but has yet to see anything in full context that requires any action."
Jeff Gordon, who was eliminated from the Chase field by Logano's finish, said he felt he deserved to be in the championship-determining field.
“I haven’t heard the audio, I heard about it," he said Wednesday afternoon at a charity event. "All I can say is I really feel like we deserve to be in it based on everything that happened Saturday night.”
This follows days of controversy over the race at Richmond that set the field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
During Saturday night's race, Michael Waltrip Racing’s Clint Bowyer came under fire when his late-race spin, which created a caution, was called into question. Critics accused the driver of intentionally spinning, an accusation he denied in his postrace interview but has since largely evaded discussing when asked directly about it. Then radio communication between his teammate, Brian Vickers, and his crew was closely studied, particularly a late pit stop that gave MWR’s Martin Truex Jr. a needed position on the track. Stops by his teammates, and Bowyer’s spin – whether intentional or not – changed the outcome of the race.
Ryan Newman, leading at the time of the caution, lost his shot at the Chase in the ensuing pit stop. Gordon, too, was eighth before the caution and ahead of Logano in the standings, but lost his edge on Logano by race's end. After the race, Truex and Logano were in the field; Newman and Gordon outside of it.
A day later, NASCAR announced it was investigating Michael Waltrip Racing and Monday night the sanctioning body called into question Vickers’ stop and made the unprecedented move of penalizing all three MWR cars 50 points each for attempting to manipulate the outcome of the race (though president Mike Helton said “there's not conclusive evidence that the 15 spin was intentional”). That punishment left Truex outside of the field as the penalty was assessed to the points after the race, but before the 12 drivers were reseeded for the Chase. Truex fell to 17th in the standings and lost his wild-card berth.
Newman moved up and into the Chase, but Gordon was still left outside of it although his outcome had also been impacted – something NASCAR stated it could not alter as a “ripple effect” of the other activities.
Gordon was the first driver outside of the Chase, edged by Logano. He took the high road on his Twitter account.
Though he questioned Bowyer’s lack of punishment – his 50-point penalty was assessed after the Richmond race but prior to the Chase reseeding, so it effectively has no impact as the field was reset based on bonus points for wins. Bowyer still starts with the same amount of points as other winless Chase drivers who made the field based on being in the top 10 in the standings.
Gordon tweeted earlier Wednesday: “Thanks to everyone for the overwhelming support this week. U have been heard loud and clear. Now it's time to shift focus to next ten races.”
Gordon had made the Chase field all but one previous season since the format was introduced in 2004.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.