Greasy knoll conspiracy theorists are having a field day in NASCAR today.
Did Clint or didn't Clint, that is the question?
With nine laps remaining in last night's final "regular season" race at Richmond, Clint Bowyer spun in turn four while Ryan Newman was leading and apparently en route to both the race win and a wild card slot in The Chase. The resulting pit stops by challengers forced Newman to pit for tires, giving up the lead. A slow pit stop brought Newman back out in -- place while Carl Edwards came out with the lead. Edwards went on to win the race since only two green flag laps remained and Newman wound up missing The Chase.
So did Bowyer spin on purpose to give his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate, Martin Truex Jr., a chance to make The Chase?
Truex said after the race that Bowyer was a "great teammate." Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was on Bowyer's bumper when #15 spun, brought up Bowyer's erratic throttle play and braking in the turn. Kyle Petty tweeted at the time, "If it walks like a duck and spins like a duck, it's a duck." Country music superstar Blake Shelton tweeted Bowyer was, "...the definition of team player."
Social media went wild. Twittersphere sited two-way radio comments by Bowyer's spotter, who asked if it was hot in the car and said Bowyer's arm must be tired immediately before the spin. Strange comments, granted.
But some of the social media "experts" suggested the sport somehow wasn't on the up-and-up, that cheaters are rewarded. One tweeted me his eight-year old nephew said Bowyer did it on purpose, so I guess that answers that. Many said they couldn't support a sport that allowed cheating.
Well, I don't know if Clint Bowyer spun his car inches in front of another car at 115 mph (Indy 500 champ Tony Kanaan scoffed at the idea), but I do know if that is your position you could never support any sport, yesterday or today. Former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher last week said his team practiced faking injuries to get key "timeouts" without using up a precious "official" timeout. Ever watch an NBA game? I don't think they have called walking since George Mikan led the Minneapolis Lakers (that's right, Minneapolis) to the 1954 NBA title.
In competition, its a fact that people cheat. They hold on every play in the NFL. EVERY play. They foul every time down the court in the NBA and college basketball. Players on every Major League Baseball team...well, ever heard of Performance Enhancing Drugs? And Lance Armstrong, you know?
I'm not saying that makes it OK. I'm just saying don't fool yourself and point at those NASCAR boys. I don't know if Clint Bowyer spun on purpose or not. I do know all of this is circumstantial evidence and not enough to convict anyone given the rules of evidence in every U.S. court. NASCAR would punish Bowyer if they had hard-and-fast evidence. I guarantee you they are looking to find the truth. If they can, they will.
I hate it for Newman and his team. If Newman believes it to be true, justice will be served in some manner some day. That's the code of all sports.
Greasy knoll conspiracy theorists will soon be talking about a second spotter or the "patsy" pit crew member or ESPN's Zapruder film-like evidence.
Only Bowyer knows for sure and he ain't talking.