NASCAR is, most definitely, a team sport, and that’s usually a good thing. Drivers may overcome poor performances on pit road by the pit crew. And the reverse is true, as pit crews can gain their drivers spots on pit road. When a particular driver pulls his/her car into victory lane, it’s a win for the team — not just the driver, and not just the pit crew. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the guys back at the shop.
Martin Truex Jr. seems to be getting a hard lesson in team concept, and it’s not a positive lesson. Michael Waltrip Racing screwed up, and Truex is paying the price. Actually, his lesson may run more along the lines of “life’s not fair” than the concept of team.
MWR screwed up royally at Richmond (Va.) Raceway on Sept. 7. And if you haven’t heard about it, you must be living under some kind of rock somewhere. Let me refresh your memory. In an effort to get Truex into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, fellow-Michael Waltrip Racing driver Clint Bowyer, allegedly, spun on purpose to bring out a caution. Also, during the race, the No. 55 team brought Brian Vickers down pit road for, seemingly, no reason other than to affect the running order.
At the end of the Richmond race, Truex was one of the 12 drivers in the Chase, but by Monday, he was out. NASCAR looked at race video, in-race radio communications, etc., and while it decided there was no definitive proof that Bowyer spun on purpose, MWR was fined $300,000, a high up team official was indefinitely suspended, and all three MWR drivers (Truex, Bowyer and Vickers) were each docked 50 points for the Vickers pit road debacle.
Aside from the $300,000 fine and the suspension, Truex bore the brunt of the punishment. Vickers hasn’t competed full-time this year, so points aren’t really important to him, and the points deduction came prior to the readjustment for the Chase, so the penalty didn’t affect Bowyer, at all. But it knocked Truex out of the Chase.
Granted, Bowyer and Vickers and others at Michael Waltrip Racing thought they were acting in the best interest of Truex, but plans backfired, and Truex is the one paying the heftiest price. And he wasn’t even a part of the shenanigans, unless you count being a planned involuntary beneficiary of the actions.
Dropping out of the Chase wasn’t enough punishment for Truex, apparently. NAPA, the primary sponsor of Truex’s No. 56, announced on Thursday that, because of MWR’s actions at Richmond, it was pulling out of its sponsorship arrangement with MWR. That’s a move that could wind up costing Truex his ride, i.e. job.
Team owner Michael Waltrip spoke to the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Friday and hinted that Truex’s future with the team is somewhat uncertain. Waltrip said that if Truex came to him with an offer from another team that he wouldn’t hold him back. Sounds like Truex may be out at MWR at season’s end.
Michael Waltrip Racing continues to pay for the tricks it pulled a couple of weeks ago at Richmond, but, specifically, Truex — who was probably unaware of what was going on at the time — is the one really paying the price.
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