Intentional cautions take spotlight in NASCAR playoffs | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World Sports

Intentional cautions take spotlight in NASCAR playoffs

Associated Press
1921921_web1_1921921-b8249dee3a564d5c92c55a22abf29b91
AP
Kevin Harvick (left) and Martin Truex Jr. are already in, and with one race to go to set NASCAR’s championship field, the final four is shaping up to be a repeat of last year.

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Denny Hamlin thought he was the favorite to win NASCAR’s championship but now finds himself in danger of not even making it to the title round.

Chase Elliott is fairly certain he has backed himself into such a hole that his only chance at a championship is by winning Sunday in the penultimate race of the season.

There’s two spots left to claim in next week’s title-deciding race and six drivers jockeying for the position and an added wrinkle headed into Sunday at ISM Raceway outside Phoenix is a brewing controversy over drivers deliberately spinning the last two weeks and altering the outcome of others’ races.

Joey Logano spun two weeks ago at Martinsville Speedway with a flat tire and brought out a race-saving caution for the reigning NASCAR champion. Many questioned if he deliberately helped himself.

Then Bubba Wallace spun at Texas last weekend and the caution ruined the race for title contender Kyle Larson. He complained after that Wallace’s spin was intentional and NASCAR needs to act when a driver deliberately causes a caution.

“I understand it’s a judgment call, but there’s so much data out there now that I don’t think it’s as much of a judgment call as people think it might be,” Larson said Friday, adding his Chip Ganassi Racing team had pulled Wallace’s data from last Sunday and is convinced Wallace spun to help himself.

“I know people say Joey spun out on purpose at Martinsville, but I don’t think he did. We looked at Bubba’s data and you can definitely see him swerving, he turns right and then at the same time he turns left and stabs the throttle and spins out. It’s whatever at this point.”

What should be a self-policing issue outside of NASCAR’s reach has turned into the hottest topic of this third round of the playoffs. Clint Bowyer in 2014 intentionally spun during the final regular-season race to help then-teammate Martin Truex Jr. make the playoff field — an action that set in motion a chain of events that created one of the biggest cheating scandals in at least 20 years.

NASCAR strongly penalized teams involved and made clear that integrity and honesty was being closely monitored, more so in the playoffs.

Now the issue has come roaring back with drivers split on what NASCAR should do.

“I would say the more NASCAR is in a position to make tough calls like that, the worse it is,” Elliott said. “That’s such a tough thing and it’s such a tough call. I don’t know how you would ever get that right. I don’t know what the answer is or whether someone spun out on purpose or not, I really don’t know. I’m not smart enough to tell you what the solution is either.”

Categories: Sports | US-World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.