Ryan Newman had driven the wheels off his No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet to lead at Richmond for Stewart-Haas Racing, the regular season finale in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
Then with less than 10 laps to go, Clint Bowyer spun out of Turn 4 in the No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, to cause the final caution of the race. It was a rather lazy spin and didn’t cause much in the way of damage to his car.
Pit stops occurred on the caution and Newman, who was leading, was unable to retain the position as his team got him out in fifth place. Newman told ESPN in the aftermath that “a championship-contending pit crew” would not have taken him out of the lead, effectively detonating whatever bridge he had left with the team as he leaves at the end of the year.
Still, a question that began popping up from reporters shortly after the race was asking whether Bowyer’s spin was intentional, in a ploy to help Bowyer’s MWR teammate Martin Truex Jr. make it the Chase. At the time of the spin, Newman was in and Truex was out, but the positions were reversed by the end of the race. Truex made it in over Newman on a tie-breaker, thanks to a better best finish.
Bowyer explained what he thought happened in the post-race press conference: “We had something gone wrong. Extremely tight. 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) got up underneath of me and I had so much wheel in it, it spun out. My car was tight as hell. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) blew a tire and hit the wall. I’m telling you I was the next one. Don’t look too much into it.”
Newman refused to enter into speculation: “I have no idea, I am not going to speculate. If it was the case, I’ll find out one way or the other,” he said in his post-race press conference.
ESPN’s Marty Smith asked Newman’s team boss Tony Stewart, sidelined from driving but on site in Richmond with a custom-made electric scooter, whether a driver would do so such a thing. “Yep. There’s a lotta money involved in making the Chase,” Stewart told Smith.
Truex said he didn’t know who had caused the spin. “I didn’t even know the 15 brought out the caution until after the race,” he said. “I raced my (expletive) off all night long, that’s all I can do.”
The only driver who suggested the spin was intentional was Earnhardt Jr., who called it “the craziest thing he’d ever seen.” He also said telemetry could be used to determine Bowyer’s trajectory and speed through the corner on the lap he spun versus other laps.
An interesting post-script for sure, that ends with two MWR Toyotas in the 2013 Chase and the Stewart-Haas camp on the outside looking in with a driver who hasn’t announced his 2014 plans yet, either.