Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 25, 2013

de la Bastide: Richmond fallout continues

Kenseth deserves bigger lead after winning first 2 Chase races.


Kokomo Tribune

---- — The fallout from the Richmond race fixing scandal that has NASCAR reeling in recent weeks continues with no clear signs of it abating in the near future.

NAPA Auto Parts, which has been a long-time sponsor, announced last week that it was terminating its agreement with Michael Waltrip Racing on the Toyota of Martin Truex Jr.

In announcing the end of the sponsorship agreement, company officials said NAPA always is supportive of fair play, thus the race-fixing move by MWR to get Truex into the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship resulted in a loss of financial backing.

With just months before the start of testing for the 2014 season, it appears certain that MWR’s No. 56 Toyota will not have sponsorship. It seems hard to image that any company wants to be associated with a racing team with a long history of breaking the rules.

Truex is now hunting for a ride with another team, but sponsorship will continue to be the issue. Does anyone really believe that Truex didn’t know what teammates Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers were doing in the closing stages of the Richmond race to get him a Chase berth?

How long will it be before Five Hour Energy announces it will not return as a sponsor for Bowyer in 2014?

For Little Mikey, the wheels are falling off his Toyotas and the only person he has to blame is the one in the mirror. When you’re the owner and the boss, the buck stops with you.

While all this has been taking place, Matt Kenseth is showing why he should be the 2014 champion. With a series-leading seven wins, three more than Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch, Kenseth should be pulling away from the pack. Yet, all he has to show for two wins in the first two Chase races is a 14-point lead over Busch and 18 points over Johnson. The problem is there is no real point incentive to finish first in NASCAR races, a real flaw in the Chase.

After two races of the Chase, there are five drivers out of contention for the championship — Ryan Newman, Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne are all more than 43 points behind Kenseth.

The Chase is shaping up to be a contest between the Chevrolet of Johnson and the Toyotas of teammates Kenseth and Busch. Not much drama there.

IN OTHER RACING NEWS

Travis Baden captured the ARCA/CRA Super Series championship with his victory last weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway. Jimmy Kirby made it two Street Stock series wins in a row and New Castle’s Jason Atkinson won his fourth Sportsman Late Model race of the year.

Ken de la Bastide may be reached at ken.delabastide@kokomotribune.com or 765-454-8580.