JOLIET, ILL. (AP) - There was vindication among Jeff Gordon’s supporters following NASCAR’s unprecedented decision to add the four-time series champion to the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field as the 13th driver.
But there was also a feeling that Martin Truex Jr. had been victimized, something Gordon himself had first raised when NASCAR removed him from the Chase field earlier as part of penalties against Michael Waltrip Racing on Monday night. Gordon had tweeted his sympathy for Truex, who was replaced in the field by Ryan Newman after MWR was found to have manipulated the finish at Richmond in an effort to get Truex into the Chase.
NASCAR didn’t change its mind on Truex even after Chairman Brian France expanded the field on Friday to accommodate Gordon, the driver who had been bumped by the actions of two MWR drivers and an apparent negotiation between Penske Racing and Front Row Motorsports for David Gilliland to give up track position to Joey Logano.
The decision infuriated Truex, an unwitting participant in the entire scandal and, in the end, the only driver who has suffered any real punishment in the entire mess.
“I’m kind of at a loss for words,” he said. “How they make a spot for somebody _ they kick me out to make a spot for somebody and then they don’t do the same for the other guys? It’s just unfair.”
It’s led to a terrible week for Truex, which saw race team MWR heavily sanctioned by NASCAR and then sponsor NAPA Auto Parts issue a statement condemning the organization for its actions at Richmond. Then Truex saw Penske Racing get off with probation for allegedly bargaining with Front Row Motorsports, with Logano escaping without penalty and then Gordon getting into the Chase because of the latest attempt at collusion.
“What I felt bad about with Martin was the circumstances which he got in, then for that to be taken away,” Gordon said. “To be on that stage after the race is over, to feel like that pressure was off, that they made it in. I know what that’s like. He drove his butt off. I raced with him in the closing laps and he raced hard. You could tell what he was racing for. The guy didn’t do anything wrong. For that, I felt bad for him.”
But Gordon said the actions of MWR’s drivers changes everything and now everyone must accept the consequences. Clint Bowyer spun out with seven laps to go, an action NASCAR determined it could not prove was intentional despite most everyone believing it was done to prevent Newman from winning, and then Bowyer and Brian Vickers pitted late to knock Gordon out of the top-10 and help Truex claim the wild card berth.
“We didn’t get to see the race play out. We don’t know what the results were going to be because the circumstances of that spin changed everything,” Gordon said. “That, to me, is the only reason I’m accepting being in in the 13th spot, because under normal circumstances I would say `No, that’s not right.’
“But under these circumstances, I feel there is enough reason for us to be in. I know how hard we worked and that we earned the right to be in.”