The drama in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship continued on Friday with Jeff Gordon being added as the 13th driver in the field due to last Saturday's controversial finish at Richmond International Raceway.
NASCAR announced at Chicagoland Speedway, the site of the first race in the Chase, that a 13th car -- Gordon's No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet -- would be added to this year's playoffs. The Chase field has included 12 competitors in the past. All four Hendrick drivers -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Gordon -- are now in the field.
"We've decided that due to the totality of the events that were outside of Jeff Gordon's -- his issues, we're going to add a 13th position to the field, and Jeff Gordon will qualify for the championship this year, the Sprint Cup championship," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said during a press conference.
"We believe in looking at all of it that there were too many things that altered the event and gave an unfair disadvantage to Jeff and his team, who would have qualified, and I have the authority to do that. We are going to do that. It is an unprecedented and extraordinary thing, but it's also an unprecedented and extraordinary set of circumstances that unfolded in multiple different ways on Saturday night, and we believe this was the right outcome to protect the integrity, which is our number one goal of NASCAR."
NASCAR also has placed Front Row Motorsports and Penske Racing on probation for the remainder of the year for "actions detrimental to stock car racing." The sanctioning body had been reviewing the radio communications between Joey Logano's No. 22 Penske team and David Gilliland's No. 38 Front Row team to determine if a deal was made to have Gilliland let Logano pass him after the final restart with three laps to go at Richmond. Logano finished 22nd, and Gilliland was 23rd. Logano secured the final top-10 points spot in the Chase, beating Gordon by only one point.
On Monday, Ryan Newman replaced Martin Truex Jr. in the Chase after NASCAR handed down severe penalties to Michael Waltrip Racing for "attempting to manipulate the outcome of the Richmond race." All three drivers at MWR -- Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers and Truex -- were each penalized with a loss of 50 points. The point total for Truex was reduced to 691, putting him 17th in the standings and eliminating him from the final wild card spot.
NASCAR came to the conclusion to issue penalties to MWR based on radio communications between Vickers and his spotter, Ty Norris, just before the final restart with three laps to go. Norris told Vickers to pit in order to give up his running position. It helped Truex get a higher finishing position in the race and therefore give him a Chase berth. Norris, who also serves as vice president/general manager of MWR, has been placed on indefinite suspension. The racing organization received a record $300,000 fine as well.
"We've been looking at a lot of video, audio and timing and scoring information and other data from the Richmond race," NASCAR President Mike Helton said. "We reacted earlier this week and then based on further due diligence, what we're determined to do -- what we've decided is in addition to what other actions we've taken, we're going to put Front Row Motorsports and Penske Racing both on probation for the balance of the year for actions detrimental."
Gordon will now make his ninth appearance in the Chase. He did not qualify for it in 2005, the second year of the playoff format. Gordon finished eighth at Richmond.
"What a roller coaster ride of emotions this week," Gordon said. "Unprecedented set of circumstances. I've never been a part of anything like this before. For my team and my fans who have been overwhelmingly supportive this week, for the tough decisions that NASCAR has to make, I'm extremely happy about this."
NASCAR has scheduled a mandatory meeting with drivers, crew chiefs, owners and other team personnel on Saturday to address the issue moving forward.
"We are organizing a mandatory meeting with drivers and owners and crew chiefs for tomorrow to hopefully address and make more clearly the path going forward as it applies to the rules of racing and the ethical part of it," Helton said.