Controversy spins around Chase
CHICAGO - Jeff Gordon finds it “a little fishy’’ that Paul Menard spun out at Richmond last weekend, forcing a caution that helped teammate Kevin Harvick win the race. He wonders whether Richard Childress Racing ordered Menard to do it.
Gordon was leading Harvick in Saturday night’s race when Menard spun with 16 laps to go. The drivers pitted during the ensuing caution, and Harvick was first out of the pits to take the lead. He pulled away on the restart four laps later.
Gordon discussed the incident yesterday as NASCAR prepares for the opening of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Harvick won his fourth race of the season, which tied him with Kyle Busch for the top seed in the Chase. It was a big swing for Gordon, who was denied his fourth victory and trails the leaders by 3 points going into Sunday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway.
“If any of that is true of what’s being speculated right now, all I can say is I’ve lost a lot of respect for Paul Menard,’’ said Gordon.
“I don’t want to blame him for any of that if it’s not true. He might have just lost it off of Turn 4 and the caution came out.
“But when you listen to the radio - and I’ve had other people translate it to me - it sounds a little fishy.’’
Gordon hadn’t heard the radio transmission, but chatter between Menard and his team that was played this week on Speed Channel indicated the group switched to an encrypted frequency before Menard spun out.
A spokesman for RCR said the organization had no comment. Harvick said he was told a flat tire caused Menard to spin out.
NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said officials have no evidence Menard or RCR did anything suspicious.
Gordon’s comments are the latest sideshow to what is expected to be the most competitive Chase to date.
Earlier in the race, five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson intentionally wrecked Kurt Busch, and the two traded barbs afterward.