Rick Hendrick talks about decision to put Gordon into Chase

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Earlier today, NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick – who now has all four of his drivers in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup after the sanctioning body put in Jeff Gordon as a 13th Chase driver – declared that it was clear Gordon deserved to be in the post-season after last Saturday’s race at Richmond International Raceway.

“I didn’t have to make that decision, but I sure felt like it was obvious that [Gordon] got taken out by a manipulation instead of getting beat,” Hendrick said at Chicagoland Speedway according to Jim Litke of The Associated Press.  “I think the world knew it and they had to do what they did.”

NASCAR’s decision to add Gordon to the playoff run was the second change to its post-season field made since the events of Richmond, in which Clint Bowyer intentionally spun out with seven laps to go to try and help Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. make the Chase.

That spin proved to stop Ryan Newman from winning the race and earning a Wild Card spot in the Chase, but this past Monday, penalties levied against MWR knocked Truex out of the Chase and brought Newman in. Then on Friday, NASCAR made its unprecedented decision to add a 13th driver to the Chase – Gordon, who was also impacted negatively by Bowyer’s spin.

According to the AP, Hendrick believed the penalties will be helpful in the long run to teams and drivers in regards to knowing what they can and can’t do. NASCAR held a closed-door meeting yesterday at Chicagoland, telling team personnel that a 100 percent effort is expected from here on in.

Today, Hendrick is a bit happier than how he felt last weekend after the Richmond race.

“…I was just disgusted and left,” he said according to the AP. “I didn’t hang around. I got out of there as soon as it was over because it wouldn’t have done any good.”

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.”