That spin started as the well-intentioned desire to help a teammate earn a valuable spot in NASCAR’s version of the playoffs, and with a little honesty, a few deep breaths and some clear thinking, it might have ended there.
Instead, the situation snowballed, and NASCAR quickly had a full-blown scandal on its hands.
So on the eve of the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, chairman Brian France gathered all the competitors of his family-built series and tersely ordered them to give 100 percent at all times going forward.
That’s right, the lasting slogan of this dark chapter for NASCAR will forever be “give 100 percent.”
Where did things go so wrong?:
_There was no spin on the spin: Bowyer’s attempt to bring out a caution was at minimum poor sportsmanship, but not uncommon in NASCAR. It just happened to be a big race with high stakes and a lot of people watching. His Michael Waltrip Racing crew chief had the bright idea to help Martin Truex Jr. stave off elimination from the Chase, and instructed Bowyer over his radio to “itch” his arm.
Bowyer did have poison oak, but the command was so bizarre it was immediately recognized as an obvious code word. Bowyer also did himself no favors after the race, denying intent during a deer-in-headlights interview on live TV.
It’s doubtful, though, the two MWR teams were ever working in concert. Nothing has indicated the players involved were smart enough to successfully execute any level of this conspiracy. And the entire organization went into lockdown for almost 48 hours, with team owner Waltrip carrying on with his duties as analyst for a Truck Series race with no mention of the controversy, even as rage was clearly building among race fans.
_The wrong penalty was issued: NASCAR wanted to send a message in issuing serious sanctions against MWR, and it did with a $300,000 fine, the indefinite suspension of Norris and kicking Truex out of the Chase in favor of Ryan Newman, the driver who would have made it before Bowyer’s spin.