Truex not happy about decision to put Gordon in Chase

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With Jeff Gordon as the 13th driver for this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, Martin Truex Jr. is now officially the guy that’s gotten the worst deal out of the controversy stemming from last Saturday’s race at Richmond International Raceway.

Truex was knocked out of the Chase after NASCAR penalized Michael Waltrip Racing substantially on Monday, allowing Ryan Newman to ascend to the second Wild Card transfer spot. On Friday, NASCAR put Gordon into the Chase, which caused Truex to air his frustration over still being left out of the post-season run.

“I’m not even sure what to say at this point. I’m kind of at a loss for words,” Truex said on Friday according to Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press. “How they make a spot for somebody – they kick me out to make a spot for somebody and then they don’t do the same for the other guys?

“It’s just unfair and nothing I can do about it.”

Last Saturday at Richmond, MWR’s Clint Bowyer spun out with seven laps to go to start the whole thing. At that time, the spin wound up enabling Truex to earn a Chase spot, while Newman and Gordon were left out.

But while NASCAR maintains it was unable to prove that Bowyer’s spin was deliberate, the sanctioning body would nail MWR on radio communications between Brian Vickers and team general manager Ty Norris that had the former being told to pit with three laps left.

Two nights later, NASCAR delivered its punishment: 50-point penalties for Truex, Bowyer and Vickers; probation for their respective crew chiefs; a $300,000 fine; and an indefinite suspension for Norris.

The penalties were especially hard to swallow for Truex after he had driven valiantly over the last two races with a cast on his broken right wrist, sustained in a crash last month at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“We ran third at Atlanta. We had a 20th-place car at Richmond, we battled our tails off to finish seventh with it and really, that’s as far as it goes for me,” Truex said.

“When the race was over, I wasn’t aware of what happened, what the cautions were for. I didn’t know the 55 [Vickers] pitted at the end…It’s a difficult situation, like I said, for all of us. Just ready to move on.”

Truex may be ready to move on, but it doesn’t change the fact that it seems wrong for him to be on the sidelines of this year’s championship battle after he had raced so hard to clinch a post-season berth.

Gordon, the second addition to the Chase in the last five days, showed some sympathy for Truex’s plight on Friday.

“He drove his butt off [at Richmond],” said Gordon. “I raced with him in the closing laps and he raced hard. You could tell what he was racing for. The guy didn’t do anything wrong. For that, I felt bad for him. But we didn’t get to see the race play out.

“We don’t know what the results were going to be because of the circumstances of that spin changed everything. That, to me, is the only reason I’m accepting being in in the 13th, because under normal circumstances I would say, ‘No, that’s not right.'”

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “