JOLIET, ILL. (AP) - Richard Childress denied Friday his team ordered Paul Menard to cause an intentional caution at Richmond, but NASCAR said officials are investigating anyway.
Menard spun with 16 laps remaining and Jeff Gordon leading Saturday night’s race. The drivers pitted under caution, RCR driver Kevin Harvick was first off pit road and he held off Gordon to win his fourth race of the season.
Gordon has called the timing of the caution “a little fishy.”
Childress said it’s much ado about nothing.
“There were no team orders despite all the speculation in the media,” the team owner said in a statement. “I know Paul Menard well enough that he wouldn’t have spun out on purpose even if he had been asked. We are at Chicagoland Speedway to win the race and get a great start toward the championship.”
NASCAR president Mike Helton said officials didn’t see anything in Menard’s spin to believe it was intentional, but the questions surrounding the caution have led them to take a second look. It was a pivotal turn of events because the victory tied Harvick with Kyle Busch atop the points standings headed into Sunday’s opening Chase for the Sprint Cup championship race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Had Gordon have held on for the win, he would have been tied with Busch. Instead, he goes into the Chase trailing the co-leaders by three points.
NASCAR can’t change the results of the race now, but could penalize RCR if it felt the organization had done anything that falls under the “actions detrimental to stock-car racing” clause in the rulebook.
“In the rulebook, there is a broad authority given to NASCAR to react to things that are detrimental, and I think we would all deem that detrimental if that was the case,” said Helton, who stressed officials were still trying to gather as much information as possible, including audio between Menard and his team and a review of the spin.
“We’ve seen in the past accusations, suspicions, things that spool up and I think it’s on all of our shoulders to get the facts right,” Helton said. “If there is something there, then we should find out about it and be sure we’ve got it right.”
Gordon wanted to focus on the upcoming race and not dwell on last week.
“If they feel like (another look) is warranted, then good for them,” Gordon said Friday. “Obviously, they’ve looked into it enough and they feel like they need to take a second look. But that’s not what we’re even worried about right now. The key is for things like that not to alter the championship, at least as little as possible.
“By bringing attention to it, I think it will make people think twice about it if they are thinking about that as an option in the future.”
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