Penske Racing may have cut a deal with Front Row Motorsports in the closing laps at Richmond for track position to help get Joey Logano in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, according to a review of radio communications by The Associated Press.
Logano was trying to claim a spot in the 12-driver Chase field in the season's final regular-season race. Penske and Front Row are both Ford teams and considered partners, but NASCAR has already been forced to shuffle the field because of a separate race-fixing attempt by Michael Waltrip Racing.
In this case, the AP review found that a spotter for Front Row driver David Gilliland informed the team of a request to let Logano pass him in the final laps of Saturday night's race.
A voice on the radio, believed to be Gilliland crew chief Frank Kerr, tells the spotter to tell Logano's spotter that the track position ``better pay big.''
``The committee knows what I've been asking for,'' Kerr says.
``We've got the big dog and all his cronies,'' the spotter replies.
Kerr then says: ``Travis knows what I've been asking for,'' an apparent reference to Penske Racing competition director Travis Geisler.
A short time later, Logano passed Gilliland on a restart and finished 22nd - one spot ahead of Gilliland and good enough for a berth in the Chase field.
``Good job, good job, man,'' the spotter says. ``Hopefully we'll get something out of that.''
Statistics analyzed by AP also show Gilliland's lap times dropped off by almost 1 second from the times he was running prior to the radio exchange.
NASCAR said it was aware of the communications ``and is looking into it, but has yet to see anything in full context that requires any action.'' Front Row spokesman Jeff Dennison said the team did not heed a Penske request to give Logano track position before the final restart.
The race has already been marred by MWR's attempt to fix the results.
Ryan Newman was on his way to a victory that would have given him the final spot in the Chase field until Clint Bowyer spun to bring out a caution. That set in motion a chain of events that cost Newman the win and the Chase berth. It also cost Jeff Gordon a Chase berth and put Martin Truex Jr., Bowyer's teammate, and Logano into the final two spots.
NASCAR, concluding that MWR had manipulated the outcome of the race, responded by putting Newman in the Chase field and bumping Truex. It also fined MWR $300,000 and suspended general manager Ty Norris indefinitely.
Bowyer, Truex and Brian Vickers, all MWR teammates, were docked 50 points each, and their crew chiefs were placed on probation through the end of the year.
Bowyer has denied the spin was deliberate. NASCAR could only prove one action - radio communication between Norris and Vickers in which a confused Vickers was told to pit as the field went green with three laps to go. The call was an effort to give Logano position on the track to pass Gordon in the standings and knock Gordon out of the Chase so that Truex could gain a Chase wild-card berth.
The Chase begins Saturday at Chicagoland.