Allen Lessels on Motor Sports: Race for the Chase is headed for NH
Back to the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Back to Chicagoland Speedway for the start of the 2013 Chase this afternoon at 2. And then back to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Sylvania 300, Race 2 in the Chase, next Sunday.
As word and evidence spread on Sunday and Monday of some late-race chicanery on Saturday at Richmond International Raceway that involved a suspect spin-out by Clint Bowyer and a couple of moves designed to manipulate results and thus the Chase, NASCAR had to act.
The organization on Monday ruled that Martin Truex Jr., the beneficiary of the maneuvering, was out of the Chase and put Ryan Newman in. Newman was leading the race and looked like he was ready to lock up a Chase slot until Bowyer went on the wild ride that shuffled the standings.
"I'm sure it draws more attention to the sport," said Joey Logano, who drives for Penske Racing and is in the Chase for the first time. "Any time you can get more attention for your sport, that's a good thing. But it's definitely different. We've never seen it happen before."
Gappens said he was surprised by NASCAR's action because the group has been loath to change results after a race is finished, even if there have been problems.
"Even though we like to tell ourselves we're in the entertainment business, at the end of the day it's still a competitive sport and we're not the World Wide Wrestling Federation," Gappens said. "We shouldn't be manipulating finishes or predetermining who's going to win because then you take away from the credibility of it."
"If I were the King of NASCAR, the only thing I would have done differently, since the race did have manipulation at the end with the last laps, I probably would have added Jeff Gordon," he said.
Gappens got his wish on Friday when Gordon was added as a 13th driver to the Chase field.
The defending Cup champion and the 2011 winner. Tony Stewart broke Johnson's string of five straight championships in 2011 and his season ended with a broken leg as a result of a racing crash away from NASCAR. Brad Keselowski won his first title last year, but did not qualify this time around.
Kenseth is atop the points lead after the standings were reset and bonus points awarded for wins. He is three points ahead of Johnson and Kyle Busch. Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards are three more points behind that.
"You don't ever count out Jimmie Johnson, that's for sure," Logano said. "But I feel like we have a good shot at beating him. I think we can do it. But there are going to be a lot of guys saying the same thing as me right now. They think they can win."
- - - - - - -
The weekend at NHMS starts with a free FanFest on Thursday that includes a hauler parade at 6 p.m., a question and answer session with Bowyer at 7 p.m. and a concert by country singer Chelsea Bain at 9. ... Friday is for practice and qualifying. Sprint Cup qualifying is at 3:40 p,m. ... On Saturday, the F.W. Webb NASCAR Whelen Modified race goes at 12:15 p,m,, the North American Power K&N Pro Series East race is at 2:30 p.m. and the Bond Auto ACT Invitational at 4:30 p.m. ... Sunday's Sylvania 300 is at 2 p.m.