The cloud of controversy hanging over the start of NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup title playoff continues to linger.
Three days after NASCAR slammed Michael Waltrip Racing with massive penalties for allegedly cheating at Saturday’s race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway to help an MWR driver get in the Chase, another issue surfaced from that race involving Chase contender Joey Logano.
Associated Press and some other media outlets suggested that the teams of Logano and David Gilliland might have conspired to let Logano pass Gilliland near the end of the race to ensure Logano would make the Chase.
The Richmond race was the last race to determine which 12 drivers qualified for the 10-race Chase that starts Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
Logano drives for Penske Racing, and Gilliland, who did not make the Chase, drives for the small team of Front Row Motorsports. But both drive Fords.
NASCAR issued a statement Wednesday saying it was aware of the reports “and is looking into it, but has yet to see anything in full context that requires any action.”
Seemingly that was the end of the story. Except it wasn’t.
NASCAR issued another statement Thursday morning saying it “is continuing to gather all the facts” from the Richmond race and would not comment further “until all the facts have been examined.”
That doesn’t mean more penalties are coming. But the statement clearly indicated that NASCAR was not done investigating whether there was additional wrongdoing.
Penske Racing President Tim Cindric said there wasn’t. Cindric told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “there’s no conspiracy, there’s no bribe” in the Logano situation and that team owner “Roger Penske is not involved in trying to manipulate the outcome of a race.”
The penalties against Waltrip’s team resulted in the unprecedented step of removing MWR driver Martin Truex Jr. from the Chase field and replacing him with Ryan Newman, who drives for Stewart-Haas Racing.
All of this was happening as the Chase contenders arrived in Chicago for media day to kick off the championship playoff. Stay tuned.