Apr 21, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT
This weekend, NASCAR returns to the scene of the crime.
The Easter break is over, and the Sprint Cup Series will get back to racing this coming Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway – its first visit to “The Action Track” since America’s most popular form of motorsport was turned upside down.
With just a handful of laps remaining, MWR driver Clint Bowyer spun out to put the race under caution with seven laps to go. Another MWR driver, Brian Vickers, was then told to pit just prior to the final restart.
For a moment, it looked like the tactics had worked as Truex was able to improve his position enough to make the Chase. But two days later, NASCAR lowered the boom.
Truex was out of the Chase after he (along with Bowyer and Vickers) lost 50 points, enabling Ryan Newman to move into the post-season.
Then loyal sponsor NAPA decided to leave MWR behind after the scandal, later resurfacing as a backer for Nationwide Series young gun Chase Elliott and JR Motorsports.
And so, MWR was forced to downsize to its current two-car form, a third car only appearing on occasion. Truex is now at Furniture Row Racing and crew chief Chad Johnston is now at Stewart-Haas Racing.
The scandal broke at the worst possible time for the sport, as it prepared to enter the 10th year of the Chase format. It wanted to promote but instead had to defend its very credibility.
But as Richmond looms once again, it appears NASCAR has weathered the storm.
Some of the reason for that comes down to Brian France’s swift decision on how to punish MWR after Richmond.
The NASCAR CEO may have been, at his own admission, “pissed off,” at the time, but he was clear-headed enough to know that a reaction from the sanctioning body post-Richmond could not wait.
“It was going to be really tough, especially for the teams that got penalized, losing sponsors; that was no fun for anybody,” he said of the situation in December. “But I knew that our credibility would be preserved if we did the right thing and we acted swiftly.”
NASCAR also caught a break in how the 2013 Chase ultimately played out. Two of the more non-controversial Cup drivers, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth wound up dueling for the title while Bowyer – who kept his Chase spot despite his points penalty – was never really a factor.
Bullet…Make that big bullet…dodged.
With that, NASCAR took the off-season opportunity to unveil yet another revision to the Chase format, which virtually ensures drivers a place in the post-season if they can win in the regular season.
So far, it’s worked out pretty well. It took eight races before the first repeat winner of the 2014 season finally emerged with Kevin Harvick at Darlington.
The focus has been on the racing, just as France and his team in Daytona Beach had surely hoped for.
Even if the Richmond visit is sure to conjure memories of last fall’s incident for everyone, that focus likely won’t be supplanted.
Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon hasn’t won yet. Ditto for Johnson and Kenseth, the two main title rivals of one year ago.
Throw in the potential fireworks that always come with close-quarter short track racing, and we should have a good show on tap for Saturday night under the lights.
Life may have gotten a bit hairy for NASCAR, but things are humming along now.
Sep 4, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
After being the enemy for the Ferrari fans in the past at Monza, Vettel will now carry their hopes of a home win on his shoulders.
Sep 4, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Despite finishing well clear of the chasing pack on Friday in practice, Hamilton believes he can go faster still.
Sep 4, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button among those running with a sticker paying tribute to Wilson on their helmets at Monza.
Sep 4, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
IndyCar’s season recap airs tonight at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Sep 4, 2015, 10:59 AM EDT
Will Buxton brings you the latest news, interviews and insight from the paddock ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
Sep 4, 2015, 10:26 AM EDT
F1 drivers react to idea of closed cockpits possibly being introduced down the road.
Sep 4, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT
Will Buxton and Jason Swales head to Silverstone to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the British Grand Prix in the latest episode of Off The Grid.
Sep 4, 2015, 9:58 AM EDT
First round of funeral details for Justin Wilson have been confirmed.
Sep 4, 2015, 9:31 AM EDT
Mercedes romps to another one-two finish in FP2 as the rest of the field is left trailing behind.
Sep 4, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT
Jota Sport confirms it will expand its LMP2 programme for 2016 to compete in the full WEC season.
Sep 4, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT
Lewis Hamilton will be hoping to double up in FP2 after topping first practice on Friday morning.
Sep 4, 2015, 5:31 AM EDT
Hamilton finishes half a second clear of Rosberg to top FP1 on Friday.
Sep 4, 2015, 3:45 AM EDT
The Italian GP weekend kicks off with FP1 at 4am ET on Friday.
Sep 3, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT
Here’s all the information you need to know about this weekend’s 61st annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis:
Sep 3, 2015, 6:54 PM EDT
The biggest and most important drag race of the season takes place this weekend with the 61st Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis.
Sep 3, 2015, 3:27 PM EDT
The GP3/16 breaks cover at Monza ahead of its introduction next year.
Sep 3, 2015, 2:39 PM EDT
Mercedes goes all-in ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, fully upgrading the power units on both of its cars.
Sep 3, 2015, 1:23 PM EDT
FOM comes out in support of “first class partner” Pirelli.
Sep 3, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT
Silly season has been a let down in 2015. Perhaps it is therefore fitting that McLaren is now the team to watch in the driver market.
Sep 3, 2015, 12:13 PM EDT
Hamilton goes blonde for Monza. He’s not alone in F1 annals.
- F1 Paddock Pass: Italian Grand Prix (VIDEO) 0
- Off The Grid: Silverstone preview (premieres 9/5 at 9:30am ET on NBCSN) 0
- Hamilton quickest again in second Italian GP practice 1
- Hamilton leads Mercedes one-two in Italian GP FP1 1
- NHRA: All you need to know about the 61st U.S. Nationals 0
- NHRA: Year’s biggest race, the U.S. Nationals, ready to roll 4
- F1 2015’s silly season is proving to be a let down, but who could yet spice it up? 4