Helton: Evidence to punish Waltrip team came from Vickers, not Bowyer

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Hastily organized or not, at least there was a media availability Monday evening from NASCAR President Mike Helton and Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton regarding the penalties assessed to Michael Waltrip Racing from earlier in the day.

Perhaps the most noteworthy item from the press conference was Helton’s admission that based on available evidence, it was actually the radio transmission between MWR driver Brian Vickers and crew, and not Clint Bowyer’s caution-causing spin, that triggered the fines, points penalties and ultimate removal of Martin Truex Jr. from the 2013 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“There’s not conclusive evidence that the 15 spin was intentional. There’s a lot of chatter. There’s the video showing a car spinning. But we didn’t see anything conclusive that that was intentional,” Helton said.

Helton said that the combination of video evidence, timing & scoring information, and radio conversations are all available at NASCAR’s disposal to utilize. He and other NASCAR senior officials spent Sunday and all of Monday discussing the circumstances, and invited MWR team officials to NASCAR’s Research & Development Center.

The conversation then shifted to what had, in fact, been the cause for penalty in NASCAR’s eyes and that’s where Helton took the chance to elaborate.

“The preponderance of things that happened by Michael Waltrip Racing Saturday night, the most clear was the direction that the 55 car was given, and the confusion around it, and then the conversation following that occurrence. That is the most clear part of that preponderance. That is the most clear part of what we found in all the detail to make that conclusion,” Helton said.

Helton said Ty Norris, who received an indefinite suspension as a result, admitted to the radio transmission.

“Ty confirmed the conversation that most everyone in this room has heard over the radio with the 55 driver,” Helton said.

Attacks from teams, team members, fans and media on NASCAR’s credibility have been heard, and Helton said NASCAR has to work to maintain its level of credibility.

“As far the as credibility of the sport, NASCAR has always taken very serious its responsibility to maintain for the most part its credibility,” he said. “I say ‘maintain for the most part,’ because we get the fact that that’s subjective to fans and others in the industry. But that’s why we’re sitting here, in hopes that we did that. Sometimes it gets out of bounds in order to maintain credibility.”

If credibility isn’t on the line for NASCAR on the whole, it certainly is for Waltrip’s team, which now has another black eye after a major issue at its first ever race as a team in the 2007 Daytona 500.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, points

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

POINTS: Standings after Rolex 24 at Daytona l Michelin Endurance Cup standings l Daytona endurance points

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.