Another Chase controversy brewing? This time, it’s Logano, per reports (UPDATED)

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Thought we were done with controversies regarding the 2013 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup? We may not be.

An Associated Press report Wednesday revealed there may have been collusion between Penske Racing and Front Row Motorsports, both Ford teams, to help Joey Logano into the Chase.

The AP’s Jenna Fryer, who was also first with the penalties doled out to Michael Waltrip Racing on Monday night, reviewed radio transmissions believed to be between Front Row crew chief Frank Kerr, who works on David Gilliland’s No. 38 car, and the team spotter.

The spotter said to Kerr, “We’ve got the big dog and all his cronies,” to which Kerr responded, “Travis knows what I’ve been asking for.” Travis could be a reference to Penske Racing competition director Travis Geisler.

FOX Sports said it also learned of what it deemed “improper communication” between the two teams and said it would have more to report on the Wednesday evening edition of NASCAR RaceHub at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Prior to the Chase reset, Logano ended the race in 10th place in the standings, one point ahead of Jeff Gordon for the 10th and final locked-in position before the two Wild Card entries. He has a win this year, which Gordon does not.

UPDATE, 4:23 p.m. ET: NASCAR has just issued a statement: “NASCAR is aware of reports about the #22 and #38 radio communications at Richmond International Raceway and is looking into it, but has yet to see anything in full context that requires any action.”

UPDATE, 5:30 p.m. ET: I had a viewing of Race Hub and beyond the full radio transmission being revealed, there wasn’t much else to add at this time. There was nothing major from the transmission other than what was written above.

If NASCAR decides to take action as a result of this situation, then the story is advanced; otherwise, there’s nothing particularly new about drivers exchanging positions on the race track as the result of radio communications. It happens in plenty of races before, leading up to, and perhaps even in the Chase to help certain drivers gain positions.

If it can be proven there was collusion between the two teams, and an accompanying radio transmission emerges from Penske Racing to Front Row, then that’s when the next domino will fall.

Either way, it still sucks to be Jeff Gordon right now. He missed out initially on Saturday night, missed out again after the Waltrip penalties came down and would remain on the outside looking in of the Chase if no action is taken regarding this radio chatter.

Schmidt Peterson hires IndyCar’s first female lead engineer, will work with Hinchcliffe

Photo courtesy Audi Sport
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Leena Gade, who helped lead Audi to three wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports as lead engineer for the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe.

“I’m really honored that I’ve got a chance to come across and work in INDYCAR,” Gade said in a team media release. “When I was a kid, I used to watch Indy car (racing), especially when Nigel Mansell first came over (in 1993), and I followed it quite a lot.

“During my sports car days, it was a little less so, until I had friends come across to the U.S. to work in it like Piers (Phillips, SPM’s general manager).

“I’m quite honored to be given the chance. It is going to be something completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, so it’s a big learning curve, but it’s a challenge that I’m really relishing, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Gade, who grew up in India and is from Great Britain, is one of the most recognized engineers in all forms of international motorsports. She becomes the first female lead engineer in Verizon IndyCar Series history.

She’s also the second female lead engineer in Indy racing history, joining Diane Holl, who served as engineer for Adrian Fernandez, Tony Kanaan (Tasman Motorsports) and Richie Hearn (Della Penna Motorsports) in CART from 1996-2000.

Gade, who holds engineering degrees from the University of Manchester in England, has engineered cars in several race series and for several manufacturers, including F1, BMW, A1 Grand Prix, GT racing, Jaguar, Audi and most recently with Bentley Motorsport.

She became the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, and followed that up with another Le Mans win in 2012, as well as being part of the World Endurance Championship drivers and manufacturers titles in the same year.

Also in 2012, she was named FIA WEC “Man of the Year” and was awarded the C&R Racing Women in Technology award from the Lyn St. James Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

Her team also won Le Mans for a third time in 2014.

“There was significant interest in Leena amongst the international motorsports community, so we’re really excited that she sees where we’re taking SPM, believes in what we’re doing and that she is now a part of our organization,” Piers Phillips said. “ I’ve known Leena for quite some time now and I’ve worked alongside her, so I knew the credit she’s been given is well deserved. We’re very much looking forward to throwing her into the deep end and seeing her add to the team’s success.”

Gade and Hinchcliffe go into the deep end that Phillips referenced when they take part in a team test Jan. 24 at Sebring International Raceway, the first time the pair will work together.