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Is Boyer’s Deliberate Spin Scandal The Biggest in NASCAR History? Maybe…

Clint Boyer spins car at Richmond September 7th 2013
(Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

The sports world is buzzing over the WWE-style slamdown NASCAR gave Michael Waltrip Racing over allegations Clint Boyer deliberately spun his car so a teammate could make the Chase Playoffs. 

But is it the biggest scandal in NASCAR history?  That depends.   The Michael Waltrip Racing scandal occurred Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.   MWR driver Clint Boyer was found to have deliberately spun his car, bringing out a caution flag, setting off a chain of events that cost Ryan Newman in the #39 car a spot in NASCAR’s coveted Chase Championship.  Only the top 12 drivers get a chance to race for the title over the last 10 races of the 36-race season.

Newman, who drives for Stewart-Haas Racing (Tony Stewart’s team) had to win the race to secure the 12th and final berth for a shot at the NASCAR title.  Boyer’s teammate, Martin Truex Jr., who drives the #56 NAPA car, would secure that spot if Newman didn’t triumph.   NASCAR’s investigation found, based upon radio communications and other evidence, that Boyer deliberately spun to bring out a caution.   Newman lost the lead coming out of the pits, and Carl Edwards won the race.      NASCAR also believed MWR had drivers Brian Vickers and Boyer take their “dives” so Penske Driver Joey Legano would knock Jeff Gordon out of the top 12 as well.  Gordon missed the chase by 1 point!

NASCAR docked Boyer, Vickers and Truex 50 driver points, knocking Truex out of the top 12 and putting Newman back in.   The penalty did not affect Boyer as he was safely inside the top 5 going into the race.   MWR’s general manager Ty Norris received an indefinite suspension, and the team fined $300,000.  Some critics say Boyer should have been removed from the chase,  others say Truex was unfairly penalized because he had nothing to do with the spin.

Was it the biggest scandal in NASCAR history?  As for specific driver or crew behavior, no.  A look at the biggest cheaters in the sport’s history show race-winning drivers and crew chiefs have been busted for altering shock absorbers, putting rocket fuel in the engine (Waltrip, 2007), and even building a fuel line in the 1960′s that held extra gallons of gas because the NASCAR rules at the time didn’t say you couldn’t do that.   Drivers have also been accused of blocking others so a teammate could win a race.

But as for an event that had the most ramifications on who could win the championship, yes.   Not only will Boyer slide several positions in the Chase seeding,   Truex is out, and Newman back in.   Although the Chase format is just over a decade old,  NASCAR has never swapped two drivers in and out of a chance to win a title.

Cheating has always been an almost humorous part of NASCAR, from it’s rough-and-tumble beginnings, an outgrowth of skilled drivers smuggling prohibition-era booze past the sheriff.    But the sport has never faced a scandal of this proportions, and it will damage it’s credibility for years to come.  Especially with those who cynically believe some finishes are staged for theatrical purposes.

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