AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - From its inception, NASCAR has had competitors that weren't afraid of bending the rules to get ahead. After all, many of the sport's original stars came from running illegal moonshine out from the hills in North Carolina.
However, when those competitor's attempts to bend the rules to their advantage crosses the imaginary line as it did last week, NASCAR chose to step in which has created controversy and confusion among the teams and fans.
Just to rewind, Clint Bowyer's spin with ten laps to go in Richmond set off a series of events that ultimately placed two Michael Waltrip Racing teammates in the Chase and eliminated Ryan Newman from participating in the Championship battle.
After investigating those series of events, NASCAR determined that MWR attempted to influence the outcome of the race resulting in the largest penalty in NASCAR history.
"The results our investigation led up to levy the fine to MWR at an organization level and not on a single race team level," explained NASCAR President Mike Helton on their decision. "We want the fans to understand that NASCAR is trying to keep the playing field far for all competitors."
MWR was penalized 50 driver points for each of their three teams which essentially knocked Martin Truex out of the Chase lineup. Team co-owner Michael Waltrip was also fined $300,000 and team GM Ty Norris was suspended indefinitely from being on NASCAR event property.
The controversy didn't end there as more evidence came to light that indicated a deal was cut between Front Row Motorsports and Penske Racing where Penske asked Front Row to give up a spot to ensure that Joey Logano made the post season.
The result of that investigation led NASCAR to make another unprecedented move to add Jeff Gordon as a thirteenth driver to the Chase championship series.
"Well, it wasn't one set of circumstances that led us to this decision," said NASCAR CEO Brian France. "We can't go back and run the event again, but we also are trying to be as fair and equitable as we can with all the teams."
The strange happenings after Richmond has left many drivers and fans to wonder just what is acceptable and what is not going forward. In an attempt to provide some clarity, NASCAR held a press conference for the news media and a closed door meeting with owners and drivers to make sure that everyone was on the same page.
"All the changes and fines were done to correct the wrongdoings and clarify what actions would be tolerated or not tolerated in the sport," continued Helton after the meetings on Saturday.
However, Brian France viewed the meetings on a much higher level and felt that the very integrity of the sport hung in the reactions that the sanctioning body and participants made going forward.
"The goal of this week's actions is to protect the integrity of the sport for the teams and fans alike," said France. "All teams are required to race at 100% of their ability in each race and not try to alter the outcome by doing things outside the race car. The credibility of the sport rests on their ability to do that."
NASCAR's actions will certainly be evaluated over the remaining Chase events. Whether they were successful or not could lead to more changes after the season ends in a few months. I'm sure that they will get plenty of feedback and if NASCAR maintains its current philosophy, they will certainly make changes to ensure that the playing field remains level.