Race Weekend Central

With Clint Bowyer Penalty, NASCAR Sets a Precedent

The hope Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip Racing had any hopes of advancing past the Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup took a significant shot on Wednesday when the team lost its appeal of penalties for an illegal suspension piece confiscated at Chicagoland Speedway.

MWR had the option of making a final appeal to NASCAR chief appellate officer Bryan Moss, but elected not to, focusing “100% of our company’s resources on winning at Dover,” per a team release.

The upholding of the penalty, a 25-point dock in the championship standings, loss of $75,000 and suspension of crew chief Billy Scott, serves as little consequence for MWR. The team was already on the wrong side of the Chase bubble, and will cease to exist in only six weeks.

However, the precedent it sets is all too important.

After taking heat for maintaining a fairly relaxed penalty process throughout the regular season, NASCAR’s stepped up and taken control in the last week. Bowyer’s penalty was stiff, and didn’t serve as the only costly penalty on the week.

NASCAR has also addressed restarts after seeing controversy in back-to-back weekends at Richmond and Chicago. Brad Keselowski served as the sacrificial lamb, slammed with a pass-through penalty after appearing to jump a restart. That the penalty came despite Keselowski surrendering the lead to Greg Biffle by the exit of turn 2 shows that NASCAR is done policing events lightly and suffering the 140-character wrath of drivers and their fans.

This is an interesting position for NASCAR to be in. Throughout the year the organization has found itself trapped in a box, letting drivers and teams get away with multiple incidents because it’d let others get away with it in the past.

Suddenly, NASCAR is attempting step out, enforcing its will over teams at the most critical time, and also adapting to improve the issue with a newly announced doubling of the restart zones at the remaining Chase races.

Many fans were upset with NASCAR’s calls against Bowyer and Keselowski, but it was still nice to see NASCAR finally showing that it’s trying to police things again.

With the high-downforce (low-passing) package ran this season, drivers have struggled to pass over the course of long green-flag runs. Because of that, restarts have proven to be an invaluable part of the race.

Upwards of 80% of races ran this season have been won or lost on a restart somewhere along the way. Denny Hamlin stole the lead and race on the final restart at Chicago. Kyle Busch powered ahead of Joey Logano on a green-white-checkered to claim his first Brickyard 400. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was untouchable after snagging the lead on restarts in the previous two restrictor-plate races.

With restarts proving to be critical this season, it’s important for NASCAR to step up and control the restarts to make sure they’re executed fairly for all competitors, especially given the win-and-advance aspect of the Chase.

As for Bowyer’s penalty, upholding it was a no-brainer. Regardless of whatever excuses MWR might have had, showing up with an illegal part to any race should be punished harshly, especially if the guilty party is a Chase team. Showing up with illegal parts in NASCAR’s much like showing up with illegal footballs for a football game.

Jokes notwithstanding, the New England Patriots’ decision to deflate footballs shares similarities with a NASCAR team showing up with illegal parts. The team can’t be blamed for pushing the envelope. Often, that’s what championships are made of.

The big difference between the two instances is that NASCAR was able to stick with its punishment, and that’s a good thing.

With the precedent set from Bowyer’s heavy penalty, NASCAR has shown that it won’t allow a championship contender to benefit from cheating. Teams can still take the risk if they’d like, but if they do, they better not get caught.

NASCAR’s never been able to list its penalty procedures as a strength, and that case is no different today. However, fans can at least see that the sanctioning body is trying to improve and give championship contenders a fair fight.

Could it do a better job? Yes. But this is still a large improvement compared to recent history.

About the author

A graduate of Ball State, Aaron rejoins Frontstretch for his second season in 2016 following a successful year that included covering seven races and starting the popular "Two-Headed Monster" column in 2015. Now in his third year of covering motorsports, Aaron serves as an Assistant Editor for Frontstretch while also contributing to other popular sites including Speed51 and The Apex. He encourages you to come say hi when you see him at the track.

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The problem is, the favored “advanced” due to NASCARS inconsistency and they said no foul. Now the people who broke no rules during that timeframe and at the critical absurdity of the “Playoff Chase” and NASCAR decides to put the hammer down with a call that was so freaking stupid and wrong. NASCAR decides in its lame brain thinking they are going to “get tough” and they don’t even get tough the way they should, their call to enforce was a joke as it was a highly suspect call, not black and white at all. To not see the hypocrisy is amazing and them digging their heels that they are getting serious is comically bad. And I don’t think it will get better what is left of this farce of a season.


I am wearing my tinfoil hat as I say this but I personally thought the reason NASCAR threw that caution at Chicago was to get a restart and screw Gordon out of a decent finish. NASCAR always finds a way to “get even” IMO


I was talking about the “restart” issue, but I agree Nascar cannot be trusted with any call because often those calls are very bias or the flip side to “screw someone”. Nope, no tin foil hat needed, because sadly it is a fact. And Nascar doesn’t seem to get their consistent inconsistencies is the problem, and you cannot make a bad call and say “we are enforcing now”. Correct Gina.


Hey Gina, l’m a Gordon fan too, but I respectfully disagree. Why won’t NASCAR want Gordon to win in his last year? Of course if there were no caution and he would have gone on to win then all the non Gordon fans would have been wearing tinfoil hats.??


Hey kb, sorry if I misunderstood your post.

Dan, I would think they would want him to win it this year, too, but it seems to me that BZF is far more interested in getting Toyota that championship instead. While I would love to see the 24 get that elusive 5th championship, the crapshoot format disturbs me so much that it would be almost strange if it did happen. Of course, I’d take it anyway. And you are right about the reaction of non-Gordon fans. Heck as I said, I truly expected them to blackflag him for it and was shocked they didn’t.


Gina, I agree…some may say I have my tin foil hat on…but given the calls that have gone JGR’s way this year….especially the last half. Well it is hard to ignore. And NASCAR can elevate or deflate those whom they deem worthy or not. That’s what sucks about these guys giving it their all. The spirit of competition is one thing, but when you got the sanctioning body manipulating an already intense situation, well I feel bad for the teams, drivers, employees and sponsors. If you pay attention you can see it. Most don’t. Right on Gina!


…And sadly restarts are critical as clean air is still king. The race off of pit road is key, and seems to be the only race. The action on the track…is still absent for the most part.

Bill B

It bothers me that restarts have become the most important part of the race since they only comprise about 2% of the total racing.
What’s important if NASCAR is going to start seriously officiating the races is that they are consistent from here on out and into the future (I wouldn’t bet on that from past history). Hearing drivers and fans whine about it now doesn’t make sense IF that is the direction. It has to start sometime and somebody has to be the first to receive the “penalties”. The time to complain will be two weeks from now when they don’t make a call on someone else. Then it will be obvious that they are still be inconsistent and that will be the time to complain, whine, kick and scream.

And Aaron, regarding “NASCAR’s never been able to list its penalty procedures as a strength”, I don’t think NASCAR’s a legitimate contraction for “NASCAR has”.


So right, Bill B, JohnQ and kb. NASCAR ignored the restart issues all year, until the chase? They didn’t penalize Gordon so what the following week they think oh gee, I guess we should show the fans we are serious about this? Hey I’m happy that Gordon wasn’t penalized, but IMO NASCAR should have just said, we aren’t going to do anything until 2016 on the restart issue. Drivers keep doing whatever you usually do, NASCAR makes themselves look stupid on a regular basis.

As you all said, clean air is key so restarts and pit road are the best way to get an advantage. Sad, isn’t it? Passing used to be about having a fast, good handling car. Blech


It is interesting that NASCAR didn’t want to change racing packages as they didn’t want to teams to have to deal with a new package during the greatest show on earth, otherwise known as the Chase (or by its new name “Playoffs”), yet adding in a new restart rule is ok. Admittedly I understand that a new racing package is a lot harder to overcome than new restart rules but the timing seems odd to me. I also understand that someone has to be the first to be penalized but in my mind this should’ve been handled a the beginning of next season. I think the call in this case was the wrong one as Brad fell into second place behind Biffle but I also think Biffle blew his restart, (is that Brad’s fault?). I also agree that the time to complain loudly is in a week or two when NASCAR ignores the very rule they just implemented two weeks earlier.


Nice try Aaron trying to spin NASCAR’s suddenly enforcing a few of its ever fluid rules as anything but yet more of the same old attempts to ” guide” the outcome of the races. If there is any precedent here it is Only NASCAR Decides Who Cheats and When. Transparent and pathetic.


Brian is a genius. Everybody’s talking about restarts which is a problem that can be solved in about three heartbeats. “The starter is in control. Go when the flag waves.” No one’s talking about the lousy racing, perceived favoritism, poor telecasts, falling ratings or any of the myriad problems facing NA$CAR. Brian’s like a magician. He has everyone watching his right hand while his left is in your pocket stealing your money.

Just to let you know, Dover is wet today and Sunday’s lineup is based on points. I hope the Wood Brothers didn’t bother to show up.


Bless those guys!!!! Go Wood Brothers!


I hesitate to join the restart controversy debate when the true controversy is that they have double file restarts to begin with but I have little self control and ample time on my hands. Penalties should fit the offense. A drive through penalty is way too harsh. Either wave off the start or have them give up a number of spots on the track (I’d say give up two spots). That would be more appropriate. I think that starting with the drop of the green flag would be worse than the current start box. We would need a split screen to simultaneously show both an over head of the lead cars as well as a close up of the flagman. The network would need to superimpose a line over the green flag to show exactly when the flag reaches 82.5 degrees on the first down stroke. Why not make it really entertaining and have 4 wide standing starts with a drag racing starting tree. I think Bruton already has a four wide tree in Charlotte.

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