NASCAR Steps Up
September 12, 2013
Ryan Newman is now in the Chase and Martin Truex Jr. is out after NASCAR penalties shook up the playoff field in the wake of what they called ‘manipulation of the race’ during Saturday night’s regular-season finale by Michael Waltrip Racing. As a result, NASCAR docked all three MWR drivers, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers and Truex, 50 owner and driver points apiece. The penalty was put into place before points were reset for the Chase.
The amended standings knock Truex out of the second and final Wild Card position in favor of Newman, who was leading with seven laps remaining at Richmond before a series of events involving the MWR teams played a significant role in altering the outcome. After replaying radio transmissions between MWR drivers and crew chiefs, NASCAR believes that Bowyer spun his car out on purpose, with seven laps remaining, to get a yellow flag.
Additionally, Vickers’ unscheduled pit stop in the late going allowed Joey Logano to gain a position, helping him race his way into the top 10 in points. Logano edged Jeff Gordon. for the final spot based on the standings, and freed up a Wild Card spot which went to Truex. NASCAR believes that there was no reason for Vickers to pit.
At the point of Bowyer’s lazy slide off Turn 4, Newman led the race and was poised to grab one of the two Wild Card berths if he could hold on for his second victory of the season. This would have denied one-win Truex the opportunity to snag a Wild Card spot. But Bowyer’s spin brought out a deciding final caution, and a poor pit stop by Newman’s No. 39 team allowed eventual winner Carl Edwards to leave pit road first and pull away to the checkered flag on the final restart with three laps remaining.
A review of in-car audio later revealed Bowyer hearing from spotter Brett Griffin that Newman was leading, then comments from crew chief Brian Pattie, saying, “Is your arm starting to hurt? I bet it’s getting hot in there. Itch it.”
Half a lap later, Bowyer’s No. 15 Toyota spun to force the final caution period. Bowyer had clinched his berth in the Chase back in mid-August. After hearing all the evidence, I believe NASCAR (finally) did the right thing. Teams conspiring to manipulate races has been going on for years. There have been little to no consequences for the actions.
Still, I do not think they went far enough. The main figure in all of this, Bowyer, remains the eighth seed in the Chase despite the 50 points deducted before the standings were reset.
I’m not a Jeff Gordon fan, but it does not seem fair that he is left out of the Chase due to MWR Racing. That didn’t sit well with Gordon, who was also directly impacted by the late-race actions of the MWR drivers Saturday night. A message was sent to all the teams by NASCAR. But keeping Bowyer out of the Chase would have made the message louder.
Panthers Showed Little Offense
If you had told Carolina head coach Ron Rivera that his defense would hold Seattle to just 12 points prior to the game, you have to believe that he figured he would win the Week One matchup.
Well, his offense could only manage one touchdown. As a result, the Panthers are 0-1 after falling at home to Seattle by a 12-7 count. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton didn’t have a standout performance, completing 16 of 23 passes for 125 yards.
Rivera, after the game, took responsibility saying the Panthers’ passing game plan was too conservative against the Seahawks. He spoke of wanting to throw the ball down the field more.
I certainly hope so. Newton threw just three passes that went more than 10 yards against the Seahawks, according to STATS Inc. I did not need STATS to tell me that. It was painfully obvious. It reminded me of life before Cam. BORING.
Overreacting Within The NFL
Week One of the NFL always leads to overreacting between Week One and Week Two. Here are just a few of the overreacting comments and statements I have heard this week.
Jacksonville is awful. They should sign Tim Tebow. I agree, the Jags are not very good. Tallying two points in Week One will depress your fan base. But Tebow is not the answer. The former Florida Gators star has digressed over the past year or two and will not see another quarterback snap in the NFL.
The Eagles are back and will be in the playoffs. Hold on. Do not let a close road win over Washington cloud your vision. Philly did not win even five games last year. Yes, the Eagles looked good under first year coach Chip Kelly. The uptempo offense worked for one half. It did not work in the second half and Philadelphia barely hung on for the win over a rusty RGIII-led Redskins team. And, yes, Michael Vick is already limping.
The Jets will be fine with Geno Smith at quarterback. Yes, they are 1-0 after luckily pulling out a late victory over the Tampa Bay Bucs. But the game was awful and Tampa Bay gave the game away. Smith was okay but he has little help around him. This team will be fortunate to win three more games.
There are several more overreactions out there and I am sure you have heard them all. Remember to keep the early season games in perspective.
Bama Has Revenge On Its Mind
The college football game of the week this week will take place in the state of Texas when top-ranked Alabama meets Texas A&M. For the Crimson Tide, this game is all about making up for that blip in the radar that disrupted a possible perfect season.
The 2012 game was also Johnny Manziel’s coming out party as Manziel led the Aggies to a shocking 29-24 win at Alabama. You are not supposed to lose home games to lower ranked teams that have freshman quarterbacks if you play football for the Crimson Tide.
So, yes, this is a revenge game for Alabama. I see Nick Saban and company winning this one in convincing fashion. Manziel needs to be humbled a bit and a 20 or 30 point loss to Alabama might humble him a little. Actually, being humbled, or even embarrassed, may help the embattled Manziel down the road.