Last lap controversy at the ROVAL reminiscent of 2013 MWR scandal

Late Sunday NASCAR said it is reviewing the final lap of the ROVAL 400 race that determined which drivers were eliminated from this year’s Playoff Round of 12.

Chase Briscoe needed to gain a few spots on the final laps to point his way into the next round. On the final lap in overtime Briscoe was charging forward. As the field was charging towards the backstretch chicane, Briscoe’s teammate Cole Custer appeared to move up and block those behind as Briscoe passed him underneath.

On the NBC Sports broadcast analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. said: “Cole Custer, throwing a block on everybody.”

Briscoe would indeed make up enough spots to eliminate Kyle Larson and move on to the next round.

“I knew the 3 (Austin Dillon) had literally wrecked me two laps before and I was wanting to give it back to him because I was so mad and then I just knew I had to go,” Briscoe said.  “It’s a tough spot for the non-playoff guys.

“The 43 (Erik Jones), I kind of put him in a really bad spot and put myself in a bad spot too, but I was just shoving him because I had to get going knowing that every spot was gonna make the difference.

“My team came over the radio and told me I was one point out and that was the 43 car that I needed to pass, so I kind of shoved him out of the way and then the 3 got by both of us and then I had the back straightaway to do a Hail Mary and luckily somebody caught it and I was able to move on.”

About 90 minutes after the finish NASCAR released a statement:

“NASCAR is reviewing data, video and radio transmissions from the 41 car following its incident on the backstretch during the final lap,” the statement read. “NASCAR will communicate the results of the review early this week. Any potential penalties would not affect the Round of 8 field.”

NASCAR could determine that Custer’s actions gave an unfair advantage to his teammate, but in line with the statement doesn’t expect to change the results and put Larson back into the Playoffs over Briscoe.

In 2013, driver Clint Bowyer, racing for the now defunct Michael Waltrip Racing, was accused of intentionally spinning out and causing a caution at Richmond Raceway that ended up putting two of the teams three cars into the Chase as the Playoffs were called then. NASCAR later investigated and found the team had intentionally orchestrated the spin.

In the aftermath Jeff Gordon was put back in contention, an MWR executive was suspended, one the team’s primary sponsor left, and the team eventually folded.

Whether this latest incident will rise anywhere near that level, there will be an investigation and in the unlikely event there was some sort of call from the Stewart-Haas Racing team, there could be heavy penalties, although given NASCAR’s statement it’s highly doubtful that a driver would be given a spot in the Playoffs they were eliminated from.

According to section 4.4.C of the NASCAR Rule Book the penalty for “Attempting to manipulate the outcome of the Race of championship is a loss of 25-50 driver and team owner points and a fine between $50,000-$100,000. “

Expect a decision and any penalties later this week.

Greg Engle