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.'”

F1 2017 driver review: Sebastian Vettel

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Sebastian Vettel

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 5
Races: 20
Wins: 5
Podiums (excluding wins): 8
Pole Positions: 4
Fastest Laps: 5
Points: 317
Laps Led: 286
Championship Position: 2nd

2017 was supposed to be the year Sebastian Vettel finally fulfilled his ambition of emulating Michael Schumacher by returning Ferrari to its championship-winning heyday.

Instead, it ended in disappointment and frustration – once again.

Ferrari arguably made a greater step across the change in technical regulations for 2017 than any other team, living up to its pre-season tag as favorite by winning the opening round in Australia in fashion.

Vettel and Ferrari led their respective championships following the Monaco Grand Prix as the German ended a 16-year win drought for the Prancing Horse in the principality, and even heading into the summer break, a shot at both championships was looking good.

However, cracks had started to appear. Vettel’s remarkable antics behind the safety car in Baku sparked controversy after driving into Hamilton, suggesting the tension of the title fight was beginning to take its toll on the German.

The final run of flyaways was where things really fell apart for Vettel, though. Singapore looked to be a slam-dunk win, only for a start-line crash also involving teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen to put 25 free points in Hamilton’s pocket.

Reliability woes then struck in Malaysia and Japan – two more races Vettel could realistically have won – to make it game over in the title race, with Hamilton wrapping things up in Mexico.

Vettel only finished the year 46 points back from Hamilton, proving the impact the three bad races in Asia had. Realistically, this was a title race that should have gone down to the wire in Abu Dhabi. Instead, Vettel remains a four-time champion, level with Hamilton, who had just one to his name back in 2013 when his rival secured his fourth.

Ferrari’s internal issues will come under the microscope over the off-season, and Vettel himself knows there is plenty to work on. Staying cool under pressure and not letting things boil over as in Baku is the most obvious area for improvement.

But there is reason for hope. If Ferrari can keep up with Mercedes and repeat its impressive step into 2017 through the upcoming off-season, we may well be treated to another Vettel/Hamilton scrap at the front of the field, perhaps settling once and for all who is the greatest driver of the post-Schumacher era.

Season High: A crucial win in Hungary despite battling with a broken steering column.

Season Low: Letting tensions flare in Baku and hitting Hamilton behind the safety car.