Jeff Gordon Controversially Added As 13th Driver To NASCAR Chase
The words of NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France during a Friday press conference at Chicagoland Speedway underline just how uncommon and bizarre NASCAR’s decision to add a thirteenth driver to the chase truly is. NASCAR shook up the 2013 Chase for the Championship Friday afternoon after reviewing a series of events that took place a week ago at Richmond International Speedway.
Controversy erupted last Saturday as team ethics and integrity were called into question. Clint Bowyer’s late-race crash raised suspicion after critics accused him of intentionally spinning in order to cause a caution. Radio communications with fellow Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) teammate Brian Vickers led NASCAR to come to the conclusion that these events unfairly changed the outcome of the race and gave MWR driver Martin Truex Jr. an illegal advantage, helping him qualify for the Chase. Ryan Newman was leading the field and Jeff Gordon was positioned in eighth at the time of the caution, however, both drivers finished outside of qualifying spots once the checkered flag had dropped. After poring over team communications and interviewing team members, NASCAR made the decision to drop Martin Truex Jr. from his spot in the Chase and instead add Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon.
The chase for the NASCAR Championship traditionally consists of twelve drivers competing in ten races. However, due to the unusual circumstances presented at Richmond, NASCAR added Gordon as a thirteenth driver competing for racing glory. NASCAR Chairman Brian France explained his reasoning for the unprecedented move, stating, "due to the totality of the events that were outside of Jeff Gordon’s issues, we’re going to add a 13th position to the field and Jeff Gordon will qualify for the championship this year. We believe that looking at all of it, that there were too many things that altered the event and a gave an unfair disadvantage to Jeff and his team who would have qualified.” NASCAR also put Penske Racing and Front Row Racing on probation for actions detrimental as well as called a meeting with all NASCAR owners, crew chiefs, and drivers.