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.
Jul 3, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
Foust seeks another win, Speed looks for bounce back from tough Daytona at MCAS.
Jul 3, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
The street and road course specialist gets his first taste of an oval in Iowa this week.
Jul 3, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Wolff finishes eight-tenths of a second behind regular Williams driver Felipe Massa in FP1 on Friday.
Jul 3, 2015, 1:22 PM EDT
British driver switches back to the old setting on his Mercedes after struggling in the past four races.
Jul 3, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Raikkonen hits back at questions about his motivation as rumors of a possible driver change at Ferrari begin to circulate.
Jul 3, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Rosberg’s car was covered over following a stoppage in FP1.
Jul 3, 2015, 10:32 AM EDT
Two red flags interrupt running in FP2, but it is Nico Rosberg who leads the way once again.
Jul 3, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT
Can Nico Rosberg top the timesheets once again in second practice at Silverstone?
Jul 3, 2015, 4:46 AM EDT
First practice at Silverstone kicks off at 5am ET on Friday.
Jul 2, 2015, 11:08 PM EDT
The way his season had been going, two-time NHRA Funny Car champ Tony Pedregon was threatening to become a “Whatever Happened To?” question.
Jul 2, 2015, 10:18 PM EDT
New NHRA Peter Clifford has the experience and apparently plenty of ideas already to get the sport of drag racing moving forward and out of neutral.
Jul 2, 2015, 6:36 PM EDT
Today, Iowa. Next year, Indianapolis? That’s what Matthew Brabham is hoping for, after completing his first full IndyCar test with Andretti Autosport Thursday at Iowa Speedway.
Jul 2, 2015, 4:10 PM EDT
At the same time that James Hinchcliffe was seriously injured while practicing for the Indianapolis 500, Ryan Briscoe didn’t have a ride for either the 500 or for the season.
Jul 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
The same ten teams from season one, albeit with a few name changes.
F1 Strategy Group pushing through technical revolution for 2017, other changes planned as early as Belgian GP
Jul 2, 2015, 1:48 PM EDT
F1 Strategy Group met with the FIA and Formula One Management in England on Wednesday to discuss future changes to the sport.
Jul 2, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
Red, white and blue in time for the British Grand Prix weekend.
Jul 2, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
The MST team makes its predictions ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
- Rosberg fastest once again in second British GP practice 0
- Rosberg tops FP1 at Silverstone after gearbox change 0
- NHRA: Tony Pedregon hopes to keep momentum going in Norwalk 0
- NHRA: New president Peter Clifford full of ideas to get drag racing back on-track 8
- Ryan Briscoe making most of filling in for James Hinchcliffe 0
- F1 Strategy Group pushing through technical revolution for 2017, other changes planned as early as Belgian GP 6
- 2015 British Grand Prix Preview 1