Bowyer’s late spin for late caution ignites some controversy (VIDEO)

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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.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”