Hendrick teammates, fans, rally to Jeff Gordon’s defense

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With Ryan Newman getting promoted into the 2013 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup as a result of penalties issued to Michael Waltrip Racing, the one driver who has gotten the short end of the stick is four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon.

Gordon missed out on the 10th place position in the pre-reset points standings by exactly one point to Joey Logano. Radio chatter involving Logano’s car passing another, the Front Row Motorsports Ford driven by David Gilliland, was a subject of debate on Wednesday as to whether a deal had emerged to allow Logano enough points to make the Chase.

As it is, an online petition at Change.org has emerged to see if Gordon could make the Chase and Logano, and for that matter Clint Bowyer, be bumped out. Its official title is “NASCAR: Disqualify Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano from the Chase and add Jeff Gordon.”

One key phrase from the plea reads, “While the fans appreciate the fact that NASCAR did something positive and penalized Michael Waltrip Racing as a whole, NASCAR has not done nearly enough. Jeff Gordon was affected equally by the cheating of MWR and Penske Racing, and he deserves to take a spot in the Chase over Bowyer and Logano. There is no place for cheaters in the Chase or NASCAR. Period.” More information is here.

Additionally, and unsurprisingly, Gordon’s three Hendrick Motorsports teammates who did make the Chase – Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne – all took time at Thursday’s NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup media advance at Chicago’s Navy Pier to assess the recent controversies and come to Gordon’s defense.

“We need to make some changes and look at all options,” Johnson said. “The technology is out there but we do not have it in hand. Let’s figure out a way to police stuff live-time. It’s no fun when you’re waiting for a decision on a Monday or Tuesday because the racing’s what should dictate the finishing order. Jeff Gordon’s a perfect example of that. It put its right for Ryan Newman, but not Jeff. I wish we could let racing play out in the future.

“Right now, if you’re bold enough to make the direct admission, you’ll pay the price. The vagueness of things is what allows wiggle room,” he added.

Kahne didn’t dismiss the possibility of there being another caution within the last 10 laps that wasn’t orchestrated by Waltrip’s team, but still felt Gordon was unjustly affected.

“I think Jeff really took a hit on it,” Kahne said. “More than likely there wouldn’t have been a caution, but there could have been another one if MWR hadn’t have done everything they did. I think Jeff’s the only guy that got messed with on the whole thing. He did get kind of screwed over.”

Earnhardt Jr. took a philosophical approach, noting that the impact of Truex being kicked out will have lingering after effects.

“NASCAR needed to deter this type of activity and that was a good move for the sport. It sent shockwaves through the sport,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Once you get a little further past this, you’ll see how big a deal that was for Truex to be moved out, and the impact for him, his team and his sponsors, that’ll be profound.”

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”