NASCAR’s Brian Vickers, one of three Michael Waltrip Racing drivers hit with major penalties this week for attempting to help a teammate qualify for the Chase title playoff, wrote Friday that he has no regrets about what happened.
Vickers also blasted critics who viewed MWR as mere cheaters who tried to game the outcome of Saturday’s race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway to get teammate Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase.
“They are not cheaters,” Vickers wrote of MWR in a column in USA Today. “You should consider this next time you decide to rant on Twitter about something without having all the facts.”
NASCAR hit MWR with the penalties Monday, docking Vickers, Truex and Clint Bowyer with 50-point penalties that knocked Truex out of the Chase. Ryan Newman replaced him in the 12-driver Chase field.
In doling out the penalties, NASCAR President Mike Helton specifically pointed to a moment late in the race when MWR executive Ty Norris, who also was Vickers’ spotter that night, ordered a confused Vickers to pit to help Truex’s position.
NASCAR suspended Norris indefinitely and fined the team a record $300,000.
Vickers, who drives the No. 55 Toyota, reiterated MWR’s stance that Norris “had a split-second decision to make that could help this team” and that “he didn’t have some grand strategy to manipulate the race.”
Vickers also maintained that “there is currently no rule that states you can’t help a teammate or give a teammate your position if you choose.”
“I didn’t make that call to pit last Saturday nor did I even understand why we did it at the time,” he continued. “But if my teammate(s) needed me again and it was of no consequence to me, my team or our partners, I would make the same decision time and time again.”
Vickers also asserted that teammates help each other routinely on the track. “You think that if Jimmie Johnson was in front of Jeff Gordon he wouldn’t give [the spot] to him? You think Mark Martin wouldn’t have given a spot to Ryan Newman or Brad Keselowski to Joey Logano? They would -- and they have.”
The 10-race Chase starts Sunday with the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.