CHICAGO – Joey Logano defended his place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship Thursday, rattling off his season statistics as proof he earned his spot in the 12-driver field, regardless of any help he may have received in the deciding race.
And make no mistake, Logano said: If anybody helped him at Richmond, he had no clue.
The latest driver caught in the fallout of NASCAR’s investigation into Saturday night’s race at Richmond, Logano learned Wednesday that radio traffic appeared to show Front Row Racing’s crew chief and spotter talking about David Gilliland giving Logano a pivotal spot on the track in exchange for something unidentified from Penske Racing.
There’s nothing in Penske radio transmissions to indicate wrongdoing, but NASCAR said Thursday it is still looking into the incident.
“That is new stuff to me. Obviously there is no transcript on our radio of anything said about it, [and] obviously I would have known about it if that was the case,” Logano said.
Logano wondered if a discussion on top of the spotter stand would have been a big deal, even if it did occur.
“That is stuff that happens week in and week out with spotters,” he said. “They are up there communicating back and forth trying to work deals out – ‘Hey, help me out here, I will help you out here, let’s work together.’ That happens all the time.”
NASCAR might not share that view as it heads into Sunday’s first Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway marred by the first major scandal on the 10-year anniversary of the championship-deciding format.
There’s always been the potential for multi-car teams to band together in an effort to win the championship. NASCAR decided Michael Waltrip Racing crossed the line at Richmond, where the team was accused of attempting to manipulate the race to get Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase.
NASCAR took the unprecedented step of replacing Truex in the Chase with Ryan Newman, citing the dive that MWR driver Brian Vickers took in the closing laps to aid Truex. Ironically, Vickers had to help Logano’s final finishing position to get Truex in the Chase.
Logano made no apologies for how the race played out. He rides into the Chase with six straight top-10 finishes and three straight top-five finishes.
“It wasn’t to help me, it was to help themselves,” Logano said. “Indirectly, it helped me and, hey, thanks, all right, that is fine, whatever. If you want to write a story about how we shouldn’t be here because of what happened with the Waltrip cars, go ahead. But I think it is a bunch of B.S.”
Between MWR and Front Row Motorsports, Logano gained enough positions to finish 10th in the final standings and bump Jeff Gordon from the Chase. The four-time series champion is furious over how it’s played out, and only gotten angrier with everything he’s learned about the alleged manipulation.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt before, really,’’ Gordon said. “You feel like as a team that we did everything we could do to make the Chase, and I’m so proud of that effort. You realize that people all want to do things for their teammates to help them, but you also know there’s certain lines that have to be drawn with that.”