In the aftermath of last fall’s race manipulation incident at Richmond International Raceway that centered around Clint Bowyer, the president of his primary sponsor, 5-Hour Energy, wondered how NASCAR CEO Brian France could expand the Chase to include a 13th driver.
“There’s a lot of talk about integrity,” 5-Hour president Scott Henderson said to reporters at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “When the guy who’s in charge can say, ‘I can do whatever I want and I’m going to do it and I just did,’ I wonder about integrity. I want to make sure we can win in this sport, OK?”
Fast forward to now, and 5-Hour Energy has not only stuck with Bowyer and Michael Waltrip Racing, but is sponsoring tonight’s Sprint Cup event at Kansas Speedway and recently announced an extension that will have their brand on Bowyer’s No. 15 Toyota for 24 races annually over the next three seasons.
While Henderson told USA Today and NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan that he still hasn’t spoken personally with France after the Richmond saga, he said that in regards to working with NASCAR, “we’re good.”
“Obviously, we wouldn’t have signed up for three more years if we weren’t OK with it,” he said Friday at Kansas.
Overall, Henderson feels that NASCAR’s handling of the saga was “probably a learning experience” for everyone but that things have turned out alright.
“Obviously, they made some changes on how the Chase is done this year,” he said. “So, I don’t know Brian France personally. I haven’t talked to him.
“[NASCAR president] Mike Helton is a good guy, [and] I’m sure they sat down in the off-season and figured out how do we structure this so it works going forward…I think they got it.”
Bowyer, along with MWR drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Brian Vickers, were fined 50 points each after Richmond last fall. That caused Truex to fall out of the Chase, and elevated Ryan Newman into the post-season as a Wild Card.
Jeff Gordon was later added to the Chase as the aforementioned 13th driver by France.